The Viceregal Lion
  1. The Governor General of Canada
  2. Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette
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Presentation of Letters of Credence (Iceland, Kazakhstan, Zambia, Mali)

Rideau Hall, Thursday, March 8, 2012


I am delighted to welcome you to Rideau Hall today.

It is a great privilege to continue the tradition started by my predecessor, the Right Honourable Jules Léger, who in 1975 became the first governor general to welcome foreign heads of mission to Canada.

Mr. Léger was well-versed in the ways of diplomacy, having worked in the foreign service for many years prior to becoming governor general. He was the youngest Canadian ever to serve as ambassador to a foreign country, and he went on to hold a number of important international postings throughout his career.

Like your four countries, in Canada we select only the most brilliant of our young people for diplomatic careers – and then advance them very quickly.

Having lived on three different continents and moved nine times in a span of ten years, he often remarked on the unique—and at times challenging—diplomatic lifestyle. 

As you well know, each new posting requires a great deal of learning, patience and humility. The demands are high, but so are the rewards of a job well done, as Jules Léger pointed out:  

“Strange as it may seem . . . we like our profession,” he said. “We like it because we serve a cause greater than ourselves, a cause to which we gladly give our time and best efforts.”

That cause is diplomacy, and it is a worthy one. Each of you represents the people of your respective nations, and you are here to communicate and work with Canadians in the common cause of building a smarter, more caring world.

And so it is with great optimism that I greet you today.

Ambassador Oskarsson, your considerable diplomatic experience with organizations such as NATO, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the United Nations will serve you well during your time in Canada. I understand that you worked closely with Canadians during your time in Afghanistan, and I look forward to hearing about your experiences in that part of the world. I trust you and your family will enjoy exploring our vast country from coast to coast to coast.

As northern peoples with common interests and traditions, Canadians and Icelanders enjoy warm and friendly relations. Our historic links reach back 1,000 years to the first Icelandic settlements in this land, and today the Icelandic-Canadian community is a vibrant part of our multicultural society. Our two nations are signatories to agreements on matters such as Arctic search and rescue, human rights and free trade, and Canadians look forward to continued co-operation with Icelanders in the years ahead.  

Ambassador Zhigalov, I welcome you to Canada for this latest posting in your foreign-service career. Your past work in Europe and your more recent service as the Republic of Kazakhstan’s deputy minister of Foreign Affairs offer you a wealth of knowledge and experience to draw on in working with Canadians. I wish you and your family the very best as you settle into your new home. I understand your daughter Zhanna, who is here today, has made an exceedingly astute choice of universities.

Canada values its bilateral relationship with Kazakhstan, and I am pleased to note the upcoming 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between us in April. Our expanding economic ties and mutual commitment to non-proliferation are important examples of co-operation between us. Canada looks forward to continuing to work in common cause with Kazakhstan, based on shared values.

High Commissioner Samakai, I am certain that your time in Canada will be an interesting chapter in your long and distinguished career. Your experience as a diplomat and public servant give you a broad perspective that is widely valued and respected. I look forward to speaking with you and to learning more about Zambia, and wish you a smooth transition to life in Canada.

Canada has been a close friend and development partner of Zambia’s since its independence, and today we are committed to furthering our co-operation. Canadians are pleased to share common ground with Zambians, as shown by our contributions through the Canadian International Development Agency to health and democracy in your country. I am also pleased to note our mutual desire for peace and security in Africa.

Ambassador Traore Ami Diallo, your considerable experience working with international institutions and the foreign service will be of great value during your time in Canada. I note with interest your previous involvement in files relating to North America, as well as the role you played as president of l’Association des Femmes des Affaires étrangères. On a related note, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you the very best on this International Women’s Day.

Canada and Mali enjoy strong bilateral relations based upon shared values and priorities, including human rights and good governance. Our friendship is reinforced by our shared membership in La Francophonie and the United Nations. Canada also commends Mali on its efficient use of foreign aid, its commitment to peacekeeping in Africa and Haiti, and its willingness to explore innovative governance models, for which it is a leader in West Africa. Canada looks forward to continued co-operation with Mali in future.

In closing, allow me to congratulate each of you on your new posting. I know you will find Canadians welcoming and our country fascinating in all its great diversity.

I also want to thank you for being here to learn about Canada and to share your country’s unique perspective. Let us work together towards a fairer, more just and peaceful world.

Thank you.