Her Excellency the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson
Speech on the Occasion of the Luncheon in Honour
of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal
Highness the Duke of Edinburgh
Rideau Hall, Monday, October 14, 2002
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Your Majesty, Your Royal Highness,
We are all delighted to welcome you to Canada on this the occasion of your Golden Jubilee and your nineteenth visit together to our country.
As I attended school in Ottawa, one of my most exciting moments was standing by the Rideau Canal, waving to you with my entire class as both of you passed by in 1951, the occasion when the famous photograph of you square-dancing – in this very room, I believe – made such an impact on us all.
The fifty years of your Jubilee are remarkable ones for the world and for Canada. And they coincide with the 50th anniversary of Canadian Governors General and the establishment of some of our most important cultural institutions – CBC Radio-Canada television, the Stratford Shakespearean Festival, the National Ballet of Canada.
To mark this occasion, we wanted you to meet Canadians who meant something very special to our country for each year since 1952. And I can tell you that we really had fun putting this list together. It was like a dream party, only it's not a dream anymore. Here it is, made a reality for all of us.
Each person here represents a defining moment in the modern consciousness of our nation; each brings a shared memory of achievement; each gives us a realization of our collective search for the best. The people in this room taught us to have faith in ourselves. In a huge country such as ours, we can't just race ahead aimlessly. There have to be beacons, those who give us our bearings, who point the way like the Inukshuk of the Canadian Arctic; our magnet is north. And our best comes when we express this in whatever we do; when we imagine ourselves most at home where we inhabit our land.
The 20th century has been said to be Canada's century. Not in hugely dramatic terms – we will never be a dominant world power nor do we seek such a thing. No, we offer something else. A society that reached accommodation in its own way, having the physical space and room to let people work out how to live their own lives and live together.
This country has absorbed the traditions of our two founding cultures and our Aboriginal peoples, the triangular foundation on which Canada was built. More than that, it has brought together the dreams of our immigrants, who have seen not only themselves but also their memories transformed by the Canadian experience of universal free education, the accessibility of wilderness, the sense of equal opportunity for talent.
Of course, Your Majesty knows, having just dropped a puck, that hockey is almost a religion with us. We have our shrines and our prophets. And we have two here today.
We also have here military men of conscience and fighting skill who have served the cause of international peace and humanitarianism.
We have policy-makers, public servants and pioneers on social issues whose tenacity and conviction have brought the outsiders, the vulnerable, the excluded of our society in from the cold and changed the way we look at ourselves, make room for one another, care for each other.
We have champion athletes – in boxing, cycling, football, high-jumping, horse-racing, skating and skiing – who displayed their prodigious talents as they pushed their bodies to the competitive edge, and played the game with honour.
We have musicians who have swung and stomped, each telling us in sounds uniquely theirs not just what we are, but what we feel we are.
We have the person who first sewed our flag, its red maple leaf enshrined as the enduring symbol of what Canada is and what we stand for as a nation, be it at home or abroad.
We have Aboriginal leaders, true visionaries, who speak with a new voice, carrying all the power and dignity of the past. They are a symbol of the growing spirit in this country for reconciliation and fairness in sharing the wealth and territory of Canada.
We have designers, inventors and scientists who create with their minds and hands and ingenuity an understanding of the world around us and show how something that starts in an individual's imagination can capture the imagination of the world.
We have adventurers, astronauts and an astronomer, individuals who cannot stop themselves from looking higher, farther, deeper into the extreme points of the universe - and into the solar system and the galaxy beyond.
We have writers who, through their acclaimed literary achievement, have marked our development, our identity, our unique experience. A country is what it is, because writers express and organize it for us. They form the warp on the tapestry of our lives.
We have audacious film-makers who led the way, whose immigrant and Inuit vision encompasses the enormous breadth of our people and our myths. And actors who have entertained us and enriched our emotional lives.
We have jurists whose determination to uphold universal human rights has brought the concept and application of law closer to its real end - justice.
Your Majesty, Your Royal Highness: these are the people who have joined us for lunch today. They embody the assurance, the confidence, the achievement, the story of our last half-century. A time when we have consolidated our belief in democracy, diversity and inclusiveness. They are the incarnation of Canada today.
I am proud that you have been able to meet them on the occasion of your Golden Jubilee. You have borne witness to our evolution over the fifty years of your reign as our Queen. Your goodwill, warmth and regard for Canada and Canadians are felt strongly by us. In introducing to you the people who have made this half century memorable for us as Canadians, who have helped to create it for us, we feel that we can give Your Majesty no greater Jubilee gift.
On behalf of the people of Canada, I ask everyone to stand as we toast our Queen.