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Her Excellency the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson
Speech on the Occasion of the Official Opening of the Canadian Embassy

Berlin, Friday, April 29, 2005

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It is a privilege to be here in Berlin to be part of this ceremonial opening of our Canadian Embassy. We are honoured to have this remarkable building located at this crossroads of European history and geography. This is our first permanent Embassy in Berlin. It will offer a fresh vision of Canada, and act as an instrument of our friendship with Germany.

For this is a city and a country where division has now been replaced by unity, where the bitter fruits of war have been transformed into the finest expressions of civilization. Everybody knows about Berlin. Everybody knows that this city once symbolized a hardened distinction between ideologies, between a so-called "east" and "west" which were merely inventions. Now, Berlin stands at the centre of a vital and harmonious Europe. It stands for hope. It stands as the realization of a dream.

As Canadians, we are excited and grateful to be part of the renewal of this great city, as it performs what one thinker called its main function: "to convert power into form, energy into culture, dead matter into the living symbols of art, biological reproduction into social creativity."

We want "Kanada Haus" to play a useful role in this process. From idea to design, from construction to completion, this building has had its own evolution. When John Ralston Saul and I paid a State Visit to Germany in 2001, many kinds of German-Canadian connections – governmental, academic, business, and cultural – were established or strengthened. At that point, the ground for the Embassy had not even been broken. To see it now in its final splendour – a piece of Canada in this deeply significant part of the world – is a source of joy and pride.

It will give a delightful and informed sense of Canada, with its rich and enormous geography. It contains wood from British Columbia and Quebec, and stone from Manitoba and Ontario. There are evidences of artistry here everywhere that you move and look: in the granite river that flows along the floor of the Reception area; in the whirl of weather that surrounds the Timber Hall, or the Northern configurations of its floor and ceiling; in the image of Canadian forest, in the glorious colours of autumn, that is found on the horizontal screens of its central courtyard; and, of course, in the canoe suspended above the intriguing "Northwest Passage", in which our legendary explorations by water and portage are recalled.

But don't be mistaken. This building does not present Canadians as hewers of wood and drawers of water. Most of us live happily in cities, and many of us are born without hockey sticks in our hands! We also have a proud record of technological innovation, which can be seen in the green roof of the Embassy, or its energy conservation, or the sustainable ways in which it manages ventilation and light. Many visitors will be attracted to the information media available here, or simply watch the screens that will show and tell the stories of Canada as they walk the "northwest passage" beside the Embassy.

Goethe spoke of architecture as "frozen music". What will this music say to you, and to all who pass by or enter this place? I hope it will speak of ideas, the ideas that energize our conception of Canada and our conversation with the rest of the world. I hope it will help you to understand the immigrant nation that we have built. We welcome people from around the globe in numbers that would seem inconceivable to many Europeans – nearly one percent of our total population arrives every year as immigrants. Individuals and families are chosen, on the basis of their eventual citizenship, from Somalia, from Afghanistan, from Colombia, from everywhere you can imagine. They play an essential role in sustaining and developing our society, both economically and socially.

Ours is one of the oldest continuing democracies in the world, a "peaceable kingdom" with astounding diversity and exploding cultural richness. Kanada Haus will be a conduit that transmits all of this to you, the people of Germany. Yours is an older culture, whose people and traditions have contributed greatly to ours. Germany has known some of history's most dire tribulations, but it has also contributed immeasurably to all the arts and sciences of civilization as we know it. Now, these two countries share important values, democratic principles, and a flourishing friendship.

I am delighted to declare this Canadian Embassy officially open. I know it will have a brilliant and useful place in the life of Berlin. One of our greatest songwriters, Stan Rogers, recognized what the quest for the Northwest Passage meant to our history and to our identity as Canadians. He sang of "tracing one warm line through a land so wild and savage / [To] make a Northwest Passage to the sea." May this building, in this land so rich and hopeful, be your passage to us and ours to you.

Thank you.

Updated: 2005-04-29
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