September 15, 2023
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Since becoming GG, I have made a point of recognizing Indigenous land wherever I am in our country. That is especially relevant today as we celebrate this historic event on the unceded territory of Mi’gma’gi, the ancestral land of the Mi’gmaw People.
Whit and I are so pleased to join you here today as we mark the 150th anniversary of the Town of Pictou and the 250th anniversary of the arrival of the Ship Hector to our shores. This is a place that means so much to us – it is like a second home to me. We have been coming back for many years, and to witness the unveiling of the restoration of the Ship Hector is a great pleasure. The Ship is a remarkable part of Canada’s history.
The restoration project of the Ship Hector not only celebrates the stories and contributions of Scottish settlers who shaped Nova Scotia and the rest of Canada. It celebrates this community.
This restoration project has brought us all together and offers us an opportunity to share the different contributions we have all made to become the province we are today. After all, it is the hard work of those who came before us that laid the groundwork for this place we call home and where we collaborate as a community every day.
In my work, I often try to bring to the forefront lesser-known stories and perspectives of Canadian history, like those of Indigenous Peoples. Their stories are a part of our collective history. In fact, some might say that the story of the settlers who travelled on the Hector would have been markedly different if not for the Mi’gmaw. Early history tells us how the Mi’gmaw helped the newcomers, and welcomed them to this land. They helped them survive!
And while over the next two and a half centuries, a relationship that began with compassion became strained, it is in working together to tell the full history of that time that we move forward on a path of reconciliation – which is not a project, but a lifelong commitment to learning and understanding.
This is why I am so pleased to see this history—the full history of this region– represented here today. And so today, as we remember the past, let us look to the future in a spirit of reconciliation and unity.
Today’s event is a timely reminder that whether we choose Canada as our new home or if Canada has always been our home…wherever we live…it is our home together. And together we can face the daunting challenges of a complex world, as long as we commit to listening to and learning from each other.
I can’t help but reflect on that and on the legacy of resilience our forefathers and foremothers, our ancestors and elders have left behind. I see that resiliency here in you today. I also see the many lessons we can learn from this resilience.
The first is to have hope.
Most of the Hector settlers were subsistence farmers, driven from their ancestral lands in Scotland by the English. It was hope—for survival and for a better life—that they chose to flee their homeland and start a new life right here, in picturesque Pictou.
The second is to accept disappointment.
With the six-week crossing turning into 11 weeks, hope quickly turned to disappointment for the travellers. They faced fierce storms, serious illnesses and death. Conditions aboard for the 189 passengers, 70 of whom were children, were appalling and crowded. Families shared one bunk. Others slept on the floor. And that disappointment grew when they landed on the deeply forested lands of Pictou—their new home—with little resources and winter approaching.
The third is to persevere. By combining hope and disappointment we create the fuel needed to persevere. I should add determination and courage, because the setters displayed all these qualities as they started their new life with the help of Indigenous peoples.
These lessons are as relevant today as they were 250 years ago!
Today, we honour this historic crossing. We honour our shared history.
We also celebrate the dedicated volunteers, and the many supporters who have worked on the redevelopment of the Pictou waterfront—soon to become a first-class tourist destination for Nova Scotia.
Finally, we pay tribute to the stories and determination of those early settlers. In fact, there are many descendants here with us today including my husband, who was born and raised here in Pictou County, and who can trace his lineage back to ancestors who made that perilous journey. History comes to life when we connect it to people and places we love – I see that as I look at this crowd.
And so, our country does indeed have many perspectives and stories…
…Stories of Indigenous peoples.
…Stories of immigration.
…Stories of survival.
…Stories of hardship and friendship.
…Stories of reconciliation.
I wish all of you success during this anniversary year and as the restoration process continues. I’m eager to see the progress you have made and invite every Canadian to do the same.