Meeting with the Community of Puerto Limon - Costa Rica

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Meeting with the Community of Puerto Limón

Puerto Limón, Sunday, December 13, 2009

I am delighted to begin this State visit to Costa Rica here in Puerto Limón, and my husband, Jean-Daniel Lafond, our delegation and I thank you very much for the warm welcome you have shown us.

I am happy to be with you in a place that celebrates diversity, which I believe is one of the Americas’ greatest strengths.

I am told that a significant proportion of your population is of Afro-Caribbean decent and that, in the south, there are Amerindian communities, just as we have in Canada; these communities remind us that the history of this continent began long before the arrival of Christopher Columbus and that America was built on the blood and sweat of our deported ancestors from Africa.

I myself am a product of this diversity, and—as I often say—I belong to all of the Americas.

In our own way, each and every one of us represents the history of this continent.

The history of this continent courses through my veins.

It has been etched in my memory; it has left its mark on my body; it is in the beating of my heart.

My African ancestors were dispossessed of themselves and forcibly taken to this side of the Atlantic, where they were reduced to the status of slaves, just as the Aboriginal people were forced to be slaves on their own land.

I was born in Haiti.

Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas.

It is a country I knew when it was torn apart under a merciless dictatorship, like so many other countries in the Americas.

Haiti, the country of my childhood, which my parents had to leave to escape persecution, oppression and tyranny.

They chose to go to Canada, a country where anything is possible, a country that I am now proud to represent as governor general.

A country that works tirelessly with Costa Rica to increase security, improve prosperity and promote democratic values across the entire hemisphere.

A country that wants to celebrate the diversity that has always characterized the Americas, from the Aboriginal communities that are our deepest roots in this continent, to the young people, women and men who have come from every corner of the globe to take part in this adventure.

And at the heart of this adventure is our joint desire—which is certainly our greatest promise for the future—to transcend the wounds of the pasts to embrace a future, starting now, where, regardless of ethnic differences, we uphold the values of justice and equality for all.

That is our greatest wish, and I wanted to mention it especially here, in Puerto Limón, in the hope that we would be encouraged to better share more of our respective histories, which are the America’s most valuable resources.

Thank you very much for coming to see us.

We will never forget it and we hope this State visit will be an opportunity to further enhance the co-operation between us.

I am looking forward to hearing what you have to say and getting to know you better.