Special Recognition of Achievement Award

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Presentation of the Special Recognition of Achievement
Award Presented
by the National Quality Institute (NQI)

Rideau Hall, Monday, November 16, 2009

I am delighted to welcome to Rideau Hall representatives and managers of organizations and businesses known for their commitment to achieving the highest quality and ethical standards.

You are blazing a trail in a world open to all markets and therefore subject to fierce competition; a world that has been shaken by the economic crisis we are currently facing.

This system, based on market logic, unchecked consumerism and the “fend for yourself” mentality, has crumbled like a house of cards and is now trying to rebuild itself on a different foundation.

This foundation is the foundation of excellence, as championed and celebrated by the National Quality Institute, in part through its awards program celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and to which I have proudly extended my patronage.

By excellence, we mean that which can be measured in terms of not only performance and profit, but also the satisfaction of the women and men who are the most valuable resource of any organization: its employees.

Excellence in terms of the opportunities that employees have to develop and contribute to overall success.

And excellence in terms of the social responsibility of organizations and businesses toward the community and environment in which they have established themselves.

The decisions and practices you adopt, whether in the private or public sector, have an impact on the lives of so many women, men and children across Canada that they must be guided by values other than the lure of profit, performance indices or immediate success.

It is now more important than ever to place human beings at the heart of every system, every program, every policy, every service we create.

Otherwise, we will see indifference and defeatism triumph. We will see an increase in the number of solitudes to which I refer so often and that push so many people to despair and suffering.

I believe that the ever increasing rates of departure, absenteeism, depression and harassment within companies and organizations are the most glaring expression of the need to return to more collective, more human values. Of the need to return to a vision, a scale, methods and a rate of production that are more human.

And although you are presenting me with an award today for my commitment to women, youth and Aboriginal people—and I am truly honoured by this recognition—, I assume it is because you share my conviction that we cannot pursue our interests to the detriment of the interests of others.

That we cannot allow ourselves to exclude entire segments of our society; otherwise, we risk overlooking a veritable treasure trove of knowledge, skills and ideas.

For example, it is critical that we recognize that youth have solutions to offer to address the major issues of the day and that they are part of the solution.

It is also vital that we give women the means to act. When women are able to take their rightful place as full equals in the workplace and decision-making circles, we all benefit from their invaluable contribution, their unique relationship with the world, and the possibility of doing things differently.

Moreover, it is essential that we create conditions that are favourable to diversity, not just because it is one of the cornerstones of our society, but because it is a value added, even with respect to competition.

We need to put an end to the indifference toward the reality of Aboriginal peoples, to recognize that they are our deepest roots on this continent, that we would be wrong to disregard their timeless experience. We need to begin forging promising, innovative partnerships.

When we make decisions that lead to exclusion, we create a social problem that may come at a very high price.

We need the courage to reflect on the consequences of our decisions, to rethink how we do things, while focussing on the greater good.

Thank you for the honour you do me today, but more than that, thank you for your commitment to excellence in every aspect and at every level of your organization.

Because this commitment is a promise of prosperity and success for you and for all Canadians.