I was invited to speak on the subject of Canada 150 at the Holy Redeemer Parish “Spring tea”
Here is the text of my speech.
Thank you so much for inviting me here today – je vous remercie de m’inviter ici aujourd’hui.
Thank you to the Holy Redeemer Parish for welcoming me here today and thank you to the Ladies Auxiliary for their hard work in assembling this tea.
It’s been an honour to serve you tea at this celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary.
Of course, we just celebrated Easter, and it’s also springtime, and we can look forward to what the warm weather and this summer will bring. Hopefully it will arrive soon!
And these three things together – spring, Easter and Canada’s 150th can give us a chance to reflect for a moment on the past, as well as the promise of the future.
As it happens, I was on vacation last week with my family in Italy, visiting major historic sites, including Pompeii, Venice and Rome. We had a wonderful time.
I had an opportunity to pay a visit to the Vatican, and was inspired by Pope Francis’ Easter Message.
He acknowledged that we live in a world of turmoil, and sometimes of tragedy.
He said that ‘having faith on Easter gives sense in the middle of “so many calamities’ It is a story of sacrifice, but also of new hope. And we can look beyond our walls and that there’s a horizon, there’s life and there’s joy.”
And Pope Francis has been very outspoken about refugees.
For refugees and asylum-seekers coming to Canada, Canada is that horizon, where there is life and there is joy.
There are more displaced people in the world now than at any time in history.
And whenever you put a label on someone – put people in a category that says they are different from the rest of us – it can make people seem a little less human.
And that really, really matters.
And the first thing we can all do when we consider an asylum-seeker or a refugee is remember that that person is a human being, like you or me. They were once a child in their mother’s arms, they have families, friends, hopes and dreams. They are not different from you and me.
And when we reflect back on 150 years of confederation in Canada’s Canada has been a place that has seen wave after wave of newcomers – fleeing war, persecution, famine. And it was never easy, and often it was unfair.
And at times of reflection we should consider, and recognize the injustices of the past, because they are part of our history too.
There were times when different groups were banned from immigrating to Canada. In Manitoba, people who spoke French weren’t allowed to teach their children in their own language. We interned Japanese-Canadians, German-Canadians, Ukrainian-Canadians. Women weren’t considered “persons” under the law.
Understanding where we came from and what really happened makes us better citizens. It makes us better Canadians.
And we need to recognize the injustices of our treatment of Indigenous Canadians, both in the past, and as an ongoing process of reconciliation.
There is another history of Canada out there that we did not learn in school, and that we need to learn.
And looking back on those challenges – and the warts of Canada’s history – we can also reflect on how far we’ve come, while still recognizing there is work to do.
Because in recognizing Canada’s real history, we can recognize what we have overcome, together.
It has been a struggle uniting Canada, because we have been bringing together people from all over the world. People who may have held historic grudges in the old world can leave their conflicts behind in the old world.
And that is one of the truly great aspects about Canada. That people who might have been born enemies in the land of their ancestors can live peaceful lives together in Canada – as friends, co-workers, as family.
This matters. It’s what makes me so proud to be Canadian.
And it didn’t happen by accident. It didn’t happen without a lot of hard work. It took a lot of people to fight for their rights to make sure they would get the respect and fair treatment we all deserve.
The act of building a country is not just something that is done by MPs or Prime Ministers and Premiers.
It is done every day, by people like each and every one of you.
With gestures of kindness, and friendship, and by gathering as a community to celebrate who we are together, as Canadians.
Thank you for everything you have done to make Canada a country we can all be proud of.