Honoured guests, Elders, and friends,
I would like to begin, if I may, by acknowledging that we are in Chief Drygeese territory. It is an honour to visit what has, from time immemorial, been the traditional land of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, and more recently, the homeland of the North Slave Métis Alliance.
Je ne saurais vous dire à quel point mon épouse et moi sommes heureux d’avoir eu la chance de revenir au Canada cette semaine et de renouer avec les gens, et les lieux, de ce remarquable pays. Pour ma part, ce fut un grand plaisir de revenir à Yellowknife pour la première fois depuis plus de quarante ans... more than 40 years since I have been here.
During this Jubilee visit we have again been reminded of everything that makes Canada so special – not least the vastness and magnificence of the country that you share; the diversity, compassion and inclusivity which you embody. We have once more felt the extraordinary generosity of spirit for which the Northwest Territories – and, indeed, Canada as a whole – are so rightly known throughout the world. In fact, what connects you all is that when faced with a challenge, you do not run from it…you run towards it. I can only hope that your actions inspire and challenge others to do the same.
When we began our journey in St. John’s earlier this week – and in marking The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee by celebrating the spirit of people and service - our great hope was that we might listen to, and learn from Canadians directly. This hope has been more than fulfilled. We have treasured beyond words the way that so many people have shared with us their experiences, their ideas and their example. Time and again, we have heard about such marvellous instances of neighbours helping neighbours in need – whether in Canada or around the world.
You have told us for example, how communities and organizations are coming together with determination and compassion to support minorities, refugees and new Canadians. We were deeply touched, ladies and gentleman, by the stories of the Ukrainian diaspora, and of the atrocities being perpetrated in their homeland. We have also heard stories of so many Canadians, from all backgrounds and religious beliefs, who are constantly pulling together to offer support to those in great need, and of how members of the Canadian Armed Forces, for instance, have helped to care for the elderly in long term care homes, wielded fire hoses to combat forest fires and filled sandbags and rebuilt roads during devastating flooding, which I know has been a problem for The Hay River for instance.
On this, as on so many issues, Canada is determined to shape solutions to the challenges it sees in the world. The same is true of the existential risks of climate change. As some of you may know, I have laboured for so many years to bring this issue to the forefront of international consciousness – not just with words, but with practical action. As I said at the G20 Summit last Autumn, this means we need to listen at least as much as we speak. And what I have heard and witnessed at first hand of the devastating impact of climate change here, in the North, merely convinces me of the supremely urgent need to take decisive, bold action on behalf of future generations, and of Nature herself.
Knowing how strongly Canada shares this sense of urgency, I was particularly pleased yesterday to be able, with the Prime Minister, to bring together public and private sectors from across Canada to identify how we can accelerate the transition to a more sustainable, inclusive and just future through public-private and Indigenous partnerships.
I am afraid that climate change and biodiversity loss know no borders; global markets and supply chains are deeply inter-connected and time is rapidly running out. To succeed, we will need to restore our relationship with Nature, challenge the status quo, innovate new business and financial models, work across borders at scale and ensure a just and sustainable transition for all. In this effort, ladies and gentleman, our children and young people have a vital role to play and we must listen to them too because, as it was put to me yesterday, our generation has borrowed the land from them.
I can only say how strongly I would encourage the leadership of the Northwest Territories to address this challenge by working alongside indigenous knowledge-keepers to restore harmony with Nature, while also looking at vital community scale renewable energy solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions such as biofuels, hydropower, solar and wind. We simply must learn practical lessons from traditional knowledge, through deep connections to land and water, about how we should treat our planet and, above all, recognize the vital importance of taking into account the seventh unborn generation.
As we depart from Yellowknife, I particularly wanted to express my special thanks to everyone in the community of Dettah for your willingness to share with us your traditions, your concerns and your profound wisdom.
Ladies and Gentlemen, our visit has enabled us to deepen our understanding of this important moment in Canada’s journey. It has been deeply moving to have met survivors of residential schools who, with such courage, have shared their experiences. On behalf of my wife and myself, I want to acknowledge their suffering and to say how much our hearts go out to them and their families. All leaders have shared with me the importance of advancing reconciliation in Canada. We must listen to the truth of the lived experiences of Indigenous peoples, and we should work to understand better their pain and suffering. We all have a responsibility to listen, understand and act in ways that foster relationships between Indigenous and non-indigenous peoples in Canada.
Now, today, we have had the greatly valued opportunity of spending time with members of the Dene First Nation, renewing connections I established more than fifty years ago when I visited with The Queen and my late father, The Duke of Edinburgh. Here we have been honoured to learn more about self-determination, the vital preservation of culture and language, and the increasingly disastrous impact of climate change on ways of life and the balance of Nature.
And so, ladies and gentleman, we depart today with heavy hearts, having greatly appreciated the warmth and hospitality we experienced in St. John’s, Ottawa and Yellowknife. I know that even across the miles, we shall remain in close touch, including through the many Canadian organizations to which my wife and I are affiliated, and which we are so proud to support. Above all, we will be closely following the next chapter in this country’s remarkable story – and doing so with the greatest affection and admiration for everything that Canada and Canadians stand for in the world.
As the journey continues, we remain with you. Massi cho.