The Viceregal Lion
  1. The Governor General of Canada
  2. Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette
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Habitat for Humanity Volunteer Appreciation Event

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Saskatoon, Monday, September 12, 2011


It is such a pleasure to be here to help honour those who have contributed to Habitat for Humanity, giving those in need access to a good home and the chance to improve their quality of life.

In the past year, since becoming governor general, I have participated in several builds across Canada. I have enjoyed rolling up my sleeves and helping out communities in a very tangible way. You know as well as I that there is something deeply satisfying about driving in a nail or raising a wall.

In Manitoba, I was privileged to join the Right Honourable Edward Schreyer—himself a member of the organization’s international board of directors and a strong proponent of the work you do—in helping to construct the 2 000th Habitat for Humanity house in Canada. This was a momentous occasion for the organization, which underscored the importance of what you do for people in the community.

And the influence of Habitat for Humanity is spreading. While in Nunavut recently, I met with volunteers of the very first build in Iqaluit, as well as the owners of the first two homes. It was remarkable to see the joy in their faces; they knew that what they had accomplished together truly made a difference.

In fact, all of these experiences have reminded me much of my home in Waterloo, Ontario, and of the Mennonite community, which would often come together to build barns for their neighbours.

I love to tell the story about one of our Mennonite neighbours, Edgar, and barn raising, to illustrate just how much the bonds that unite a community can sustain it through thick and thin.

One day, Edgar was over at our house, while Sharon was going over the farm’s budget. At one point, she asked Edgar, “How much would it cost to replace the barn?” Edgar replied, “Why do you need to know?” To this, Sharon explained that she was trying to reduce the farm’s operating costs, and so was going over the insurance portfolio. For this she needed to put a price on the barn in the event that it burned down. Edgar replied that there was no need to put a price on the barn, because if it burns down, the neighbours and community members would volunteer their time and recycled lumber to come together to replace it, free of charge. He then hesitated for a moment, before adding, “Put $2,000 down because we’ll need new shingles.” 

I am sure many of you can relate to Edgar’s story.

The “barn-raising” you do in Saskatchewan gives hope to people who have suffered setbacks in their lives. Hope that tomorrow will be a better day and that anything is possible.

I have often spoken of how we can build a smarter, more caring nation, and one way that I believe we can do so is by encouraging volunteerism.

Canada has one of the strongest voluntary sectors in the world; in fact, Saskatchewan has the highest participation rate among its citizens of any other province or territory.

This is something of which we can all be proud, but we must also not be complacent about it. How can we involve even more people in the community? How can we be smarter in how we work, more efficient and productive?

I know that Habitat for Humanity has been actively trying to recruit more volunteers. The recent Cameco Women Builds is a wonderful example of how we can innovate to reach our goals. By empowering women to enter the worksite, you are ensuring that future builds will be brimming with eager and confident volunteers.

And I cannot wait to see how you attract even more attention to a cause with such a concrete and important outcome.

Next year, you will erect Habitat for Humanity’s 50th house in Saskatoon, a milestone that should be celebrated as an achievement not only for the organization, but also for the community.

Mr. Schreyer once wrote: “The true gauge of our national character rests in how we treat the least fortunate among us.”

Our character can be safely described as caring because of the efforts of all of you here today and all volunteers across the province.

I wish each and every one of you the very best as you continue with your work for the people of Saskatoon.

Thank you.