Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards Presentation Ceremony

May 27, 2022

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

I’m so pleased to welcome you to Rideau Hall for my first presentation of the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards, which also happens to be marking its 30th anniversary this year.

Rideau Hall is a welcoming place for Canadian artists. The walls of Rideau Hall feature our artists, and Canadian writers fill our bookshelves. And on many occasions, the performing arts have taken centre stage. On these grounds we’ve hosted movie showings, dance performances, concerts and even plays.

Here, we celebrate the spirit of Canada’s artistic community.   

To the recipients of the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards—Fernand Dansereau, Rita Shelton Deverell, David Foster, Tomson Highway, Linda Rabin, Michelle Smith and Crystal Pite: my heartfelt congratulations on your achievements. To your families and friends, I can only imagine your pride and excitement in this moment.

I’d also like to congratulate the 2022 mentor Alexina Louie, who will share her experience and insights with her protégé, Christopher Goddard. In my Inuit culture, knowledge and skills are transferred from one generation to the next. This mentorship program does just that, and I applaud both of you.

I’m here today not only as governor general, but also as a proud Canadian—and an Indigenous person—who grew up in Nunavik, in northern Quebec. I grew up surrounded by artists, storytellers, seamstresses, performers, print makers and stone carvers. Our long dark winter days and sun-filled summer nights on the land were a natural stage for expressing our spirituality and identity.

Sadly, for years, as a result of unacceptable policies of assimilation, many Indigenous peoples lost their culture and their art.

But I’m so pleased to see a resurgence in the Indigenous performing arts, which was fully on display during my visit back home to Nunavik two weeks ago. I saw throat singers, drummers, dancers and more. I was even convinced to take a turn at the accordion

The arts give people permission to express their creativity.

It can come from a place of hope and joy, and it can be born from dark corners as well. The arts allow us to “speak” our voices. The arts allow us to be heard. 

We are so privileged to have in Canada a wide latitude for artistic expression. And this expression can become an important commentary on the sociology of change.

Like all the recipients here with us this evening, performing artists push boundaries. You inspire us and surprise us. You make us cry or laugh. And sometimes you even shake us. We’re grateful that you create the impetus to reimagine ourselves.

As performing artists, you display a type of strength and courage that comes from perseverance and expressing yourself to an audience. We are proud of all you’ve accomplished.

Congratulations again to each of you. After too many years of empty halls, I look forward to seeing you all tomorrow evening for the gala at the National Arts Centre. On behalf of all Canadians, let’s celebrate your work and well-deserved awards. 

Thank you.