Prime Minister, Premier, distinguished guests. My wife and I much appreciated the enormous effort to organize today’s efforts, especially the people who have provided such a wonderful rendition of music, both the group and the choir, with their special efforts. I can hardly imagine how much rehearsal and practice has gone into it. My wife and I are most grateful for your very kind words of welcome. We are both delighted to be here today, in the heart of this historic town, to begin the process of marking the 400th anniversary of English settlement in what is now the Dominion of Canada.
I have to say that as we arrived in the community a few moments ago I could not help but be struck by the rugged and imposing landscape to which the Prime Minister also referred and which frames this historic town. I found my thoughts turning to those early settlers arriving here in 1610 and to the Beothuk people who had already been here for many centuries. Of course, the settlers we are commemorating today - some of them I suspect came from the Bristol area not far from our home in Gloucestershire - arrived in a place unknown to them; a place quite different to all that they had experienced before; a place that was to become home, shared with the aboriginal peoples with whom they quickly established friendly relations.
Beyond whatever earthly possessions they carried, these enterprising and stoical settlers came with something greater than their preparedness for adventure. They came with their own vision of a new life – a vision of creating something new for themselves and their children.
My wife and I saw earlier this morning how the strong roots the settlers planted all those years ago did in fact take hold in the soil of Newfoundland and Labrador. Having studied a spot of archaeology myself at Cambridge – now over forty years ago! – I could not have been more fascinated by the evidence which the Cupids archaeological dig site has uncovered a stone’s throw from here. The work of Bill Gilbert and his team is of great value in piecing together the social and economic history of those early settlers. This not only enriches our understanding of the past but, crucially, provides important lessons and reference points in managing our present and future.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I cannot help but feel that these celebrations - while marking the 400th anniversary of Cupids - have a symbolism which extends well beyond the boundaries of this community. The story of Cupids is, in a very real sense, the story of Canada. It is emblematic of the resilience and determination of those who came later to these shores, in different times and in different circumstances. The unifying factor, it seems to me, is that they all came with a purpose; a dream to create something new – to build again and, in the process, to contribute to the great and vibrant tapestry which is the Canada of today. My wife and I are extremely proud to be able to join you for these historic celebrations in this immense and enterprising country.