State visit by the President of the Slovak Republic – State Dinner

Due to illness, Her Excellency the Right Honourable Mary Simon, Governor General of Canada, was unable to participate in the State visit to Canada by the President of the Slovak Republic. Justice Karakatsanis, Deputy to the Governor General of Canada, welcomed the President on the Governor General’s behalf.

Check against delivery

January 30, 2024

Good evening,

Before we begin, welcome, all of you, to Rideau Hall, which sits on the traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe peoples. As our Governor General has shared so many times, land acknowledgements are a way to show respect to those who have been on this land since time immemorial. Gestures like these can lead to greater understanding and respect between peoples, a lesson we can all take to heart, no matter where we come from.

I am here today on behalf of Her Excellency the Right Honourable Mary Simon, Governor General of Canada, who deeply regrets not being able to join us this evening due to illness. I am honoured to welcome you, President Čaputová, and your partner, Mr. Juraj Rizman to Rideau Hall and to Canada.  And thank you for joining us on this beautiful and important evening.

More than 68,000 Canadians identify with their Slovak heritage. Throughout Canada’s history, Slovak-Canadians have contributed to politics, arts, sports and so much more. And they have kept their traditions and culture alive, adding their richness to our Canadian society.

During your visit, you will continue to meet with Canadians to speak about ways we can face complex challenges that confront us all.

For instance, around the world, communities are feeling the very real impacts of a warming planet. Polar ice is melting at a faster rate than ever, leading to rising ocean levels. Heat records have been broken time and again. In the Arctic, warming climates are changing the natural ecosystem that is so essential for the people who live there.

Climate change is changing us and changing our communities. It has altered our economies, infrastructure and our very way of life, and it will continue to do so.

Canada and the Slovak Republic can meet these challenges as partners in advancing sustainable energy models. The Slovak Republic has an interest in renewable and nuclear energy, and many Canadian technologies are finding their way to Slovak markets to address the challenges of green transition.  

Our countries also believe in protecting and promoting the rules-based international order, which is vital for our mutual stability. One of the ways in which we achieve this is through our membership in NATO, which remains as relevant as ever in the face of traditional and emerging threats to our shared security.

The rules-based international order, as articulated in the UN Charter and embodied in the multilateral system, provides the foundation for peace between nations. Respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states is of paramount importance in achieving a peaceful world. 

That is why Canada is steadfast in its support for Ukraine. And we acknowledge the support the Slovak Republic has provided to Ukraine as it resists Russia’s aggression. It’s important, as allies, for us to stay united to ensure that Russia does not succeed.

The Ukrainian people still need our support and aid. Canada and Canadians continue to stand with the Ukrainian people, and we appreciate that you, Madam President, share this sentiment as well.

Peace and dignity belong in all places. We all deserve a safe place to raise our families, to build communities and to be who we are, free from judgement.

Finally, I would like to take a moment to talk about an issue that is dear to our hearts. President Čaputová, as the first woman to be president of your country, you know the importance of gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Our Governor General has been a leader in this regard, taking a stand against harmful, misogynistic and racist digital commentary. I, too, have been an advocate for women’s empowerment throughout my career.

Talking about the unique challenges women leaders face is critical for future generations. Young women and girls are looking at us and wondering if public life is worth the sacrifice—for themselves and their families. Thank you, Madam President, for your own leadership on this important issue and for your work in support of an inclusive democracy that everyone can see themselves in.

Today, our message is simple: there are so many ways to increase collaboration between our nations, but the foremost way is through dialogue.

It is through dialogue that change can happen.

Thank you for visiting Canada. Let us acknowledge today the contributions of all Slovak-Canadians, some of whom are here tonight, who immeasurably enrich our country.

Let us all raise a glass as we celebrate this wonderful opportunity to strengthen our ties and write the next chapter in our relationship.

Thank you.