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Reception hosted by the Province of Saskatchewan
Saskatoon, Monday, August 23, 2010
I would like to begin by saying that I am doubly happy to be with you here tonight in Saskatoon.
First, because you are honouring me with this incredible reception, thereby giving me the opportunity to meet a greater number of women, men, and youth of great merit.
And second, because I had never before had the chance to visit Saskatoon and my map of Canada which I have crossed several times from east to west, north to south would not have been complete without this visit.
I am touched by your warm welcome and I thank you very much.
Saskatchewan-born poet Lorna Crozier, whom I quoted during my first official visit to your province as Governor General of Canada, was right when she said that under your sky, you feel yourself vibrate like a tuning fork.”
Yes, there is something magical in the air here, and a great many artists have sung, written, painted and danced under this sky, which really does seem endless.
I was in Saskatchewan in 2006—after your province celebrated the 100th anniversary of its joining Canadian Confederation on September 4, 2005 to express how much the entire country owes to your spirit of generosity and cooperation, and to your sense of community, which is one of Canada’s greatest resources.
In fact, it is thanks to a collective effort that, at the start of the last century, the farmers of Saskatchewan were able to protect their resources, promote fellowship and lay the foundations of a cooperative movement that has left its mark on Canada’s history and is one of our most fundamental values.
This commitment was based on a vision of the world that is now one of the greatest sources of hope for people around the globe.
In this vision, inclusion and the common good triumph over exclusion and the “fend for yourself” mentality.
We must not forget that Saskatchewan is the only Canadian province where, from the very beginning, people of Aboriginal, French, Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, Scandinavian and British origin have coexisted and cooperated with a willingness to live together in harmony and to build on their combined strength.
This legacy must be kept alive and continually inform the way we build the present and our dreams for the future. For we have yet to fully achieve our ideal of a society in which everyone can fulfill their highest potential.
That was made very clear to me today, during a Youth Dialogue I convened at the Saskatoon Downtown Youth Centre, to mark the International Year of Youth. And from the bottom of my heart, I thank the organization, EGADZ, for hosting such a wonderful event.
Over one-hundred and fifty young people, particularly Aboriginal youth, spoke out on the tremendous challenges they confront every day.
Despite facing the scourge of poverty, exclusion, substance abuse, homelessness and other social ills, they shined in their refusal to be broken by their circumstances.
These young leaders saw themselves and acted as agents of change, working in their own way to help themselves and their peers overcome some of these intractable problems.
It was so touching to hear them call upon all of us to honour, once again, the values of respect, dialogue, compassion and cooperation that great spirit of solidarity and togetherness that are so dear to the people of Saskatchewan and the people of Canada.
That is why I was so pleased that provincial cabinet Ministers, His Worship, municipal councillors, as well as members of the Order of Canada, joined me, listened, and responded to what the youth had to say.
Our conversation this evening is part of this larger dialogue I hoped to begin with Canadians five years ago.
My dearest wish is that this dialogue will continue endlessly and that we will never stop sharing our stories and the lessons we learn on a daily basis from the places where we have set down roots in this country, a country where anything is possible.
I am counting on the resilience and daring of Saskatchewanians to ensure that the dialogue between us continues to develop without borders or barriers, just like the immense and beautiful Saskatchewan sky.
Finally, I would like to express my sincere gratitude for the support and friendship you have shown me over the past five years, and to tell you how delighted I am to meet the people of Saskatoon tonight and to experience the rich cultural diversity of your city and province.
And thanks to Premier Wall, I am now number 27 of the Roughriders. I’m so happy to be part of their centennial.
Thank you for having me tonight.