Her Excellency the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson
Speech on the Occasion of the Order of
Halifax, Saturday, October 26, 2002
I am so pleased to welcome you today to this Order of Canada ceremony at Pier 21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. This is only the second time that the Order of Canada investiture has been held outside of the two official residences – Rideau Hall and La Citadelle in Québec City.
In order to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Canadian Governors General, one initiative we thought was very important was to take the Order of Canada ceremony out to various parts of the country, so that people could bring their friends and families in large numbers to see their investiture and also to anchor this ceremony – our highest Canadian civilian honour – in all parts of the country. Every part of Canada is a part of all of us. We have had an investiture in Vancouver, we will be having one in Winnipeg, and we had one in the spring in Québec.
This honour was anticipated by Vincent Massey, who, fifty years ago, became the first Canadian Governor General. He broached the subject of an honour system in his role as chair of the Massey Commission on the Arts. But the idea did not take hold and become reality until the mandate of Roland Michener in 1967.
Today, 35 years later, the Order that began under Roland Michener is now firmly established in our country. And I think it plays a role in our sense of ourselves as a society. We know when we see the little stylized snowflake on somebody's lapel that they have desired a better country, that they have been recognized as contributing to the good of all of us as citizens of Canada.
I am particularly happy that we can have this ceremony and celebration here – all day really – at Pier 21. First of all, it is an enormously evocative space and all of us who have gone through it understand in a living and tangible way what it was like to arrive here as a refugee or a settler, and what it was like to leave here with an unknown fate and then return, shocked by war and tragedy.
Recently, both John and I attended a reunion of Canadian war brides in Sudbury, Ontario. Two hundred of them gathered and talked about their arrival at Pier 21 on the different ships. And on one of those ships was my husband's mother, who arrived on the Mauritania in 1946, carrying her eldest child in her arms.
This place symbolizes something very important to the Order of Canada. It means that we can take raw potential, tremulous hopes, desire for a better life, courage, determination and, from these qualities, make Canada a home for all of us. You who are being invested in the Order of Canada represent potential that has been realized. You are part, though, of the same dream, the same quest for fulfillment.
Agnes Jacks proves this so. She is among your number today and she came through Pier 21 as an immigrant to Canada seeking her dream. Today, right here on the spot where she arrived fifty-seven years ago, she will be invested as a Member of the Order of Canada.
All Canadians who are not of Aboriginal descent have to acknowledge that they arrived for life in Canada at one Pier 21 or another. Mine wasn't here, it was somewhere else. But it was a kind of Pier 21. Maybe they arrived only twenty years ago; maybe it was after the Second World War. Or it could have been a couple of hundred years ago, as the Acadians and the Loyalists, including the black Loyalists, did. The Acadians, who tenaciously returned to the land which had been theirs. The black Loyalists, who sought freedom and found it here, even under the hardest conditions. And all the other Loyalist settlers, who also gave this place a character.
Pier 21 represents the values which we all try to live by in Canada – freedom, opportunity, equality, decency. And it is fitting that we honour here those who have made remarkable contributions to our society by upholding, preserving and furthering these values. Every single one of you invested today has not only stood for excellence – you have achieved it. And in this room with you are those people who have helped to make you who you are – your teacher, your parent, your wife or husband, your friend. All of them are around us now and present with us, even if they are not physically here.
Also present with us today is Carol Shields, a great writer, who is very dear to my husband and me personally, and who, sadly, cannot join us today. She would like to be here if she possibly could, with her courage and her wonderful gift of telling us things about ourselves that we wouldn't know without her. I know all of you will include her among you and remember that she was invested today in Victoria as a Companion of the Order of Canada at the same time that you were welcomed into the Order here in Halifax.
My remarkable predecessor, Governor General Vanier, said: "I almost prefer striving without success to success without striving." I think all of you here today know the meaning of that. How important it is to have that energy, that drive, that determination to commit yourselves to what you believe to be the best. And not to be satisfied with anything less. Today, your country honours you, just as you have honoured it.
Remembering the words of our poet, Jean-Guy Pilon: "There comes a day when each person encounters his country and says yes to it forever." That is what you are doing, you who are being invested in the Order of Canada.
This investiture of the Order of Canada is a way of getting to know a community – not only the people of Halifax and Nova Scotia, but also, by extension, the community of all members of the Order of Canada, because it connects us all across this country.
In this 50th anniversary year of Canadian Governors General, we have made six regional visits to different parts of Canada, and we are now just at the end of the sixth one. We went from sea to sea to sea. And the Atlantic here is the last sea. It's taken us this time to the Annapolis Valley and the whole South Shore of Nova Scotia. Earlier this year, we went to western Nunavut in the Arctic, the Gaspé Peninsula, Newfoundland and the northern coast of Labrador, the Haida Gwaii - Queen Charlotte Islands on the west coast, and northwestern Ontario.
In each place we spent a week, and we asked Canadians to come and join us for walks – which we called "walking home", a way of connecting us back to the land, back to our own territory, which is so important in Canada to our idea of ourselves as a people.
It was also a way of letting people come out and meet and talk and walk for an hour or two, depending on the route. In Parc Forillon and Gaspé, we had a pretty good hike of eight kilometres. In the walk at Cape Spear, outside of St. John's, it was not as harsh, but mysterious and beautiful with fog.
Just yesterday, we made a walk through the old historic centre of Lunenburg and, earlier in the week, practically the whole town of Annapolis Royal turned out to walk with us and show us their town.
I am particularly happy that so many members of the Order of Canada from previous years, from this region, have joined us for this celebration. I think there are forty-one or forty-two of you. I hope that we can all meet and get together at the reception afterwards, because I think it is enormously valuable for us to understand that we are part of one living body. And that there is a welcome for the newer members of the Order. Since becoming an Officer in 1992, I've always felt that it would be nice to meet a lot more members of the Order, not just in isolated incidents, but perhaps a lot of us together. This is the closest that we can get to that kind of dream. I hope you'll all enjoy mingling and talking with each other.
And we must not forget that we are here in Nova Scotia, the birthplace of democracy in what would become Canada. Joseph Howe boasted that it was the first colony to achieve responsible government "without a blow struck or a pane of glass broken". And it was here in Halifax where Joseph Howe defended himself in a libel trial and, in a six-and-a-half hour speech of enormous eloquence, established forever the right of freedom of speech in Canada. In this place that is a memorial to the public good – this place which, as Howe said, "decorates the tombs of its illustrious dead, repairs its great public structures, and fosters national pride and love of country", we are taking part today in the continuum of history.
I hope this ceremony has been that for all of us. You have helped to make it so for me, as Governor General and Principal Companion of the Order of Canada.
John Ralston Saul and I are looking forward so much to meeting you in the reception.