Exceptional achievements recognized by Governor General during honours ceremony

December 13, 2021

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Good day, everyone.

I would like to acknowledge that we gather on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe people.

This statement is an assertion of fact—part of our true history.

We have much to be proud of as Canadians—our democratic institutions, our time-honoured values, our wide-ranging achievements.

We also have much to learn about, much to reckon with—especially the lived realities in First Nation, Inuit and Métis communities past and present.

Learning our true history is one essential step in our shared journey of reconciliation.

Today, we have come together to learn about each other, to celebrate our most cherished values, and to honour those who have shown such values most visibly.

We do so by bestowing three kinds of awards:

  • The Meritorious Service Decorations—both medal and cross—recognize exceptional deeds in a range of fields.
  • The Decorations for Bravery pay tribute to the courage of those who take immediate action to save another from certain injury or death.
  • And the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers expresses our gratitude to the unsung people of our hometowns whose dedication and long-term commitment have improved the lives in them.

These three honours allow Canadians to recognize these selfless efforts and tangibly express their gratitude.

Today, Canadians express their gratitude to the 22 people I see before me.

You have made remarkable contributions to our country through your achievements, through your bravery, through your selfless service.

I thank you for that; the people of Canada thank you.

We come from many traditions, backgrounds and experiences.

Our country would be unrecognizable without our differences.

This diversity makes up our shared identity.

And, as you 22 have demonstrated, our diversity inspires an equally broad range of responses.

This is one of the underappreciated beauties of our country—our diversity is an inspiration as well as a condition, and you are living proof of that inspiration.

Some of you established targeted initiatives to improve your communities.

Others reached out to meet the special requirements of distinct groups of people.

Still others found special ways to support fellow Canadians who were struggling to overcome specific challenges.

When they are read to us, the 22 citations will reveal the wide variety of your service—how it is as unique as the person who offers that helping hand, how it is as unique as the person who benefits from that helping hand.

Thanks to your example, our definition of service grows wider and grows stronger.

Ever wider, ever-stronger service is needed because, regardless of our circumstances, each of us depends on one another.

Indigenous people in Canada have a time-honoured expression for this truth: all my relations.

It is often used to begin or end a prayer or story.

It is said as a reminder of where each of us comes from—our immediate family and community.

It also speaks to something bigger—that each of us belongs to the broader human family, and that everyone in that family has a purpose, everyone in that family is worthy of respect and caring, everyone in that family is of value in the grand scheme of life.

Reading the stories of today’s honourees, I see that principle living and prospering.

You reached out your hands and gave the best of yourselves.

You made many people understand that they belong, that they are not alone, that their lives have value.

You put your unique knowledge and talents in the service of others, so they could enjoy deeper and richer lives in the collective life of our country.

I am hopeful that others will learn from your example—hopeful that your example can guide us toward a more peaceful and united Canada.

Again, thank you.

I also thank those who nominated you for these honours.

Someone from each of your communities told us your story, taught us about you, which was an act of service itself.

Their decision to share, gave us the gift of your examples.

I encourage all beyond the walls of this place to consider nominating a person from their respective community.

Nominate someone who has shown exceptional courage, who has accomplished something extraordinary, or who has acted throughout their life to improve other lives.

Nominate someone whose actions and achievements bring honour to us all—as yours have done.

Thank you, all my relations.