National Indigenous Peoples Day – Mixed Honours Ceremony

June 21, 2023

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Before we begin, I would like to extend my deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of the two members of the Royal Canadian Air Force who lost their lives yesterday in a training accident. I also want to wish a speedy recovery to those injured. Our thoughts are with all of you.

As commander-in-chief, I have great admiration for everyone who serves our country. This is a tragic loss for Canada.

I would ask all of you to join me in a moment of silence.

Thank you.                

First of all, I want to acknowledge that it is very important to celebrate Indigenous people like you. This is a great day to recognize those who have carried us forward, towards a greater understanding of our history and our truth. There are changes taking place. I’ve seen changes happen since becoming governor general two years ago. 

Nakurmiik / Thank you Reepa for lighting and tending to the Qulliq today throughout this ceremony. For Inuit, the lighting of the Qulliq is done to mark important ceremonies, such as the one we are holding today. Thank you also to all those who will share their culture with us today as part of this special celebration of achievement.

I would like to acknowledge that we are gathered here on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe people who have lived on and cared for this land for thousands of years. This acknowledgement is one steeped in meaning and reflects our respect for the journey of reconciliation we are on together.

Welcome all of you to Rideau Hall for this presentation of honours.

We are here to recognize a variety of accomplishments with the Meritorious Service Cross, the Meritorious Service Medal and, our country’s highest honour, the Order of Canada. 

Today is also National Indigenous Peoples Day. Today, we celebrate the languages, cultures and identities of First Nations, Inuit and Métis. I can think of no better way to mark this day than with a ceremony to celebrate the success of Indigenous peoples and to celebrate those who are supporting Indigenous peoples and reconciliation in Canada. 

I can think of no better way to mark this day than with a ceremony to celebrate the success of Indigenous peoples and to celebrate those who are supporting Indigenous peoples and reconciliation in Canada. 

Indigenous peoples have been here since the beginning.  Communities we call home are on Indigenous land and some even have names that trace back to Indigenous languages. Indigenous peoples have nurtured the land throughout history. They shared their teachings when Europeans first arrived, helping them survive. And today, they share their traditional knowledge in tandem with scientific research to protect nature and to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Working for the betterment of our community is part of who Indigenous people are. 

And this dedication continues in each of you. You have made significant contributions to how far we have come as a country.

Whether Indigenous or non-Indigenous, whether directly or indirectly, all of you share a commitment to improving the lives of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. This is part of reconciliation. We could not have come this far without your efforts.

I’m grateful that you’re here. I’m grateful because you each carry within you stories of resilience, dedication and excellence.

These stories define you. They shape you. Yet each of these stories, brought together, define and shape us all as a nation. They help broaden the story of our country.  

Indigenous peoples have been telling stories on these lands for thousands of years, imparting history and legends, myths of creation and even practical advice on many issues. I can remember my grandmother, in our tent, talking about the legends she knew.

Increasingly, I see a greater openness by all Canadians to learn more about the realities faced by Indigenous peoples and to acknowledge the pain of the past. I see younger generations eager to learn of the strength of Indigenous culture, languages, identity and family.

And although progress can happen slowly, and much work still needs to be done, progress is being made. This is thanks in part to your efforts.

Because of you and others like you, there is a wider knowledge of the contributions Indigenous peoples have made to the arts, business, public service, volunteerism and so much more.

In this way, we strengthen our nation.

No matter where we come from, what languages we speak, what we believe, who we love, how we identify, we have in common a desire to pass on our wisdom to the next generation and to be remembered for the good we left behind.

You contribute excellence in your communities. You shape our society through your actions, helping others and creating a vision of success. 

As governor general, I consider it both a privilege and responsibility to learn and to share your stories!

Because we’re inspired by your example.

I hope one day to see a Canada that doesn’t just desire to be a better country, but is a better country. One where Indigenous peoples have equal opportunities not only to jobs, but also to access necessary services, such as mental health resources and quality education. I hope to see a day where all Canadians can live side-by-side without judgment. Where we take nothing for granted.

And where we respect all our stories … our full history … our lived truths.

You have already struck out on the path towards a better country, encouraging leadership, sensitivity and hope.

Let us all work together to create a truly inclusive and diverse nation—a nation of kindness—where we celebrate our differences without giving up who we are.

The honour you receive here isn’t the last step, but just one more on your ongoing journey. It’s a journey of healing and reconciliation, as well as of strength and determination.

Happy National Indigenous Peoples Day. And congratulations to all of you.

Thank you.