Rideau Hall, Tuesday, January 31, 2017
Welcome to Rideau Hall. Welcome to your citizenship ceremony.
Today is a day of celebration, but I begin with words of condolence for victims of the terrible shooting at the mosque in Quebec City.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who have been affected.
Six men were killed in this hateful act of violence. Others were seriously wounded.
An entire community was wounded, as was the Province of Quebec, as was Canada.
This was a direct attack on our country. It was an attack on our history and traditions, on our values, on what it means to be a Canadian citizen.
Most terribly, it was an attack on human beings just like you and me.
To be a Canadian is to be a member of a diverse, inclusive society.
This country would not exist without diversity, and nor can it thrive without diversity.
One of my predecessors, John Buchan, who served as governor general from 1935–40, was among the first to articulate Canada’s unique approach to diversity and inclusiveness.
It was in 1936 that Buchan told an audience of people of Ukrainian origin who had settled in Manitoba that:
“You will all be better Canadians for being also good Ukrainians.”
Think about that for a moment.
Not just, “you can be both Canadian and Ukrainian,” but “you will be a better Canadian for honouring your Ukrainian identity.”
The same applies to any hyphenated identity you can think of. It applies to each new Canadian here with us today, and it applies to the Muslim-Canadian community that was targeted in Quebec City.
Diversity is the essence of Canada, and one of the great strengths of our country.
In Canada, you don’t have to choose between your country of origin and your new home. Instead, you can choose both, and together, we will be enriched by our diversity.
And where differences exist, we find opportunities to learn and grow.
This is the idea of Canada. This is the glue that holds Canada together.
This is a difficult time, but I am very optimistic about this country. Terrible things can and do happen here, but we have faced adversity before. We have prevailed in the past, and we will again.
Your arrival as new Canadians is one reason for optimism. You come from 17 countries located all over the world, and together as Canadians you will make this a better country.
We welcome you.
As you pronounce the words of the Oath, I urge you to take them to heart and recall them daily throughout your life; they are your commitment to do your best for Canada.
As I said earlier, this is a diverse country, one that is officially bilingual. We will take the Oath first in English and then in French.
Let us take it slowly and thoughtfully.
Please repeat after me:
That I will be faithful
And bear true allegiance
To Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second,
Queen of Canada,
Her Heirs and Successors,
And that I will faithfully observe
The laws of Canada
And fulfill my duties
As a Canadian citizen.
Congratulations, you are now Canadians!
For generations, immigration has been a constant theme in Canada. With the notable exception of Aboriginal peoples, all of us are new Canadians, relatively speaking.
In fact, this is true of many of my predecessors, including the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson.
I thank both her and her husband, John Ralston Saul, for their singular leadership on belonging and inclusiveness through the Institute for Canadian Citizenship.
I’m so pleased to welcome you all as citizens today. I encourage you to get involved in your communities and to play an active role!
Your contributions are essential to the smarter, more caring nation of which we dream.
I wish you every success in this, your country, Canada.