Symposium on the 150th Anniversary of Canadian Confederation
Ottawa, Ontario, Thursday, May 25, 2017
This is a year to celebrate, and a year to further realize the promise of Canada, the potential of this great experiment!
Because even after 150 years, Canada is still a constantly evolving social experiment.
And this experiment is continually being tested and challenged, both within our communities and by world events.
But I believe there is nothing more practical than a good working theory when continually tested and refined against reality.
In that vein, we, as Canadians, must learn from our experience, adjust our approach and always strive to do better.
We define our country by how we respond to such tests, how we learn from the evidence and how we act accordingly.
This is why I’m so pleased to see all of you here, taking the time to think about where we have been and where we want to go.
What could be a better setting for asking the big questions about Canada? This is our parliament, a sacred public space for dialogue, debate and dreaming.
Let this location remind us of our responsibilities as citizens and as leaders who wish to serve our country.
Over the next two days you will consider 10 subjects of national significance.
Among them are common threads that will tie these issues together and will show you a path forward.
Inclusiveness, for one.
Inclusion is not simply making people feel welcome. It means allowing everyone a shared stake in society, drawing on and rewarding their talents, and recognizing those efforts.
Canada is home to a population with more than 200 ethnic origins and speaking more than 200 languages. This includes some 65 individual and unique Indigenous languages.
It also has the highest proportion of foreign-born population (20.6%) of any G7 country.
This diversity is something to be proud of. I’ve met refugees as they landed in Canada for the first time, hesitant, yet hopeful. And on the other side, I could see the outpouring of support from Canadians.
But that isn’t the whole story.
Our diversity does not guarantee inclusiveness. Not for refugees, not for our Indigenous peoples, not for women or families or young people.
In this, we cannot be complacent.
At this symposium, you will hear from those who continue to be excluded from participating fully in our society.
Social inclusion, solving matters of housing, water, education, mental health, can go a long way towards building a better Canada.
It can lead to renewed hope.
It can lead to change.
How do we do this?
By listening to diverse voices—not only established experts, but new voices as well.
Young people, in particular, who will inherit our country and who are even now contributing in so many exciting ways. I’ve learned time and again not to discount their ideas, energy and their enthusiasm for change. They deserve a voice, as do the scientists, academics, public servants, economists and entrepreneurs and others you will hear from.
And we want to hear from you, every one of you, because in our democratic society, everyone has something to give.
We’re living through an extraordinary moment in time.
One of profound globalization, technological changes, demographic shifts, and changing expectations.
And if change can be said to be the new constant, then innovation is the new imperative.
What we must do to thrive is embrace new ways, better ways to do things. New ideas that will allow us to build a better country.
Use this time to consider creative solutions.
And let’s get to work making the next 150 years even better.