Visit to the Town of Gravelbourg
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Gravelbourg, Sunday, September 11, 2011
My wife Sharon and I are delighted to be here today at the outset of our official visit to Saskatchewan. Thank you for your warm welcome.
I have been looking forward to this visit to Gravelbourg, and to learning more about your deep roots in this province. The fact that the Association communautaire fransaskoise is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year speaks volumes about your dedication to the vitality of the French language and culture in Saskatchewan, so let me begin by congratulating you on this wonderful milestone.
It has often been said that the prairie encourages people to think and dream on a grand scale, and in your case, that is certainly true. This community is a remarkable cultural gem, and you have much to celebrate and be proud of.
The flag that will be flown is a fitting symbol of and tribute to the Francophone community in Saskatchewan.
The bold yellow brings to mind this remarkable landscape, which together you have worked and which has sustained you for more than a century.
The green cross invokes the central role of the church and of the boreal forest in your society and economy.
And then, at the heart of your flag, there is the fleur-de-lis, symbol of the French language and culture. It is significant that this version of the fleur-de-lis is taken from a design by Louis Riel, who played such an important role in the struggle for minority rights in this region and throughout Canada.
As you know, the recognition and respect of minority rights speak to our desire, and our ability, to cooperate. This concept lies at the heart of our Canadian experiment, and it will be truly wonderful to witness the raising of this flag in Saskatchewan.
Allow me to take a moment now to honour the memory of a friend and former colleague—and native of Gravelbourg, in fact—who would also have loved to have been here today.
His name was Paul-André Crépeau, and we met at McGill University, where we both worked for many years. Born in Gravelbourg, Professor Crépeau dedicated his life to the study and promotion of civil law and the French-inspired civilian tradition. He made enormous contributions to the development of the Civil Code of Québec and to the protection of civil liberties, and he received many honours for his work on behalf of the French language and law, including the Order of Canada.
Professor Crépeau, who died this past summer at the age of 85, was a great humanist, and his life and work remind us of the positive impact that we can have in our communities and our country. Many of his achievements came at the provincial, national and international levels, but his heart was devoted to individual rights and liberties, and to the vitality of minority communities such as yours.
In his example, we see a Canadian hard at work, building a better country.
As governor general, I have been inviting all Canadians to imagine ways to create a smarter, more caring nation as we approach the 150th anniversary of our unique Confederation in 2017. And I want to extend this invitation to you, the people of Gravelbourg and the members and supporters of this association.
Be proud of what you have achieved, and continue in your efforts to support each other and the most diverse and inclusive Canada imaginable.
Your help is essential to the country of which we dream.