Presentation of Canadian Honours in Recognition of Outstanding Indigenous Leadership
Rideau Hall, Monday, June 19, 2017
As we begin, I would like to take a moment to recognize that we are gathering for this celebration of outstanding Indigenous leadership on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people.
Welcome, all of you, to Rideau Hall for this special ceremony. I’m pleased to be joined by my colleagues, the lieutenant governors and commissioners from across the country.
I’d like to begin by drawing your attention to the painting hanging on the wall behind me by the late Daphne Odjig, who herself was a member of the Order of Canada.
Hers is the colourful painting at the bottom right, and it’s called They Gather to Celebrate.
That’s why we gather today: to celebrate, and to honour outstanding efforts to strengthen Indigenous communities.
We also gather to raise awareness of Indigenous histories, cultures, achievements and concerns, and to create an environment in which reconciliation is possible.
There is so much work to be done, but today we pause to celebrate your achievements with some of this country’s top honours:
the Order of Canada;
the Meritorious Service Decorations (Civil Division);
the Polar Medal; and
the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers.
You’re all so deserving, and so representative of this country at its best.
The fact that we’re seated in a circular formation speaks to our potential to build the “better country” that features in the motto of the Order of Canada: They desire a better country.
The better country we desire is above all more inclusive: one that supports, respects, encourages and acknowledges the contributions of all peoples, including Indigenous peoples, the original peoples of this land.
And let me apologize for not expressing myself correctly on this matter recently: Indigenous peoples are the original peoples of this land.
The inclusive circle we form in this ballroom is one of celebration, of support and encouragement, of listening and learning.
I thank you all for being here.
Together, you come from right across this remarkably vast and diverse land.
You live, work and volunteer in urban and rural communities from coast to coast to coast.
You’re involved in a wide range of activities: health, law, arts and culture, languages, business and so much more.
What unites your efforts is a dedication to doing what is right and to doing it extraordinarily well. Today we say thank you, and we highlight your examples to inspire others to follow.
This is the first of a number of special ceremonies lieutenant governors and territorial commissioners will hold this year across Canada, bringing together Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples to celebrate excellence.
We want to present this picture of excellence to all Canadians. It’s a picture of this country at its finest: diverse, creative, compassionate, bold and energetic.
It’s also a picture that predates Confederation, which we celebrate this year in the knowledge that, as the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples put it, “The first confederal bargain was with First Peoples.”
That bargain recognized we must work together if we are to survive and thrive in this vast and challenging land.
And that’s precisely what all of you have been doing in such a variety of ways.
Today, we thank you for your leadership and we salute you with these honours.
You have made a difference in peoples’ lives. You have strengthened your communities in countless ways. You have pushed Canada to become a better country for everyone.
Congratulations on all you have achieved. I wish you the very best.
Kitchi meegwetch to you all.