Your Excellencies, Prime Minister and Mrs. Harper, mesdames et messieurs, distinguished guests.
If I may, I would like to thank the Governor-General and Monsieur Lafond for hosting this splendid dinner in the midst of their very busy lives, and the Prime Minister for taking such trouble over the arrangements for our visit when I know how many other things he has to think about.
After ten days of travelling across nine time zones in four provinces, twelve cities and the Capital region, I have to say that I do rather look to my wife for some reassurance that this is indeed Ottawa and today is indeed Thursday – or is it Wednesday?! I’m afraid it’s enough to make me lose my marbles! But there is no doubt whatsoever that any visitor to Canada cannot help but be struck by the immensity and diversity of the world’s second largest country which of course acts as an incredibly important guardian of much of the Arctic – the world’s refrigeration service if you think about it.
Mon épouse et moi tenons à vous remercier sincèrement pour les commentaires très aimables et généreux entendus ce soir. C’est un véritable plaisir d’être parmi vous dans ce décor historique – Rideau Hall.
When, Governor-General, you so kindly wrote to us many months ago to invite us to visit, I am afraid I made two requests. First, that my wife and I should be able to meet as many Canadians as possible. And, second, that the Canadian Forces should assume a particular significance in the programme. I was so pleased when this chimed exactly with the Government of Canada’s own priorities. We have, I fear, now rather lost count of the thousands of people we have met over the past ten days. But what we do retain – and with great clarity – is the warmth of the welcome we have received from coast to coast.
Remembering with fondness the time I spent back in 1975 on exercise with Her Majesty’s Canadian Forces when I was serving in the Royal Navy and found myself in a tent for three weeks in a somewhat inaptly named place, called Blissville– near Gagetown military base in New Brunswick – you can perhaps imagine that the time my wife and I have been able to spend with some of the Regiments of which I am so proud to be Colonel in Chief – a number of them for over thirty years now – has been particularly treasured. These regimental “families” with their traditions of service and courage – for that is their real strength – play such an important part in the life of the nation. Indeed, today at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, my wife and I were greatly privileged to join you, Governor-General, with the Prime Minister and others, to pay tribute to all Canada’s fallen. It was an even more poignant occasion at this time when I think of those Canadian servicemen who have paid the ultimate price for their loyalty and dedication in Afghanistan. We do owe them an enormous debt of everlasting gratitude as well as opening our hearts to their loved ones who grieve for them.
Mesdames et messieurs, je peux affirmer sans conteste, par mes nombreux voyages internationaux, que le Canada est perçu comme étant imprégné d’un sens des responsabilités et d’un sens du devoir, surtout quand vient le temps d’aider les autres dans le besoin. Au cours des dix derniers jours, j’ai eu l’honneur et le plaisir de rencontrer énormément de Canadiens qui ont à cœur cette obligation de servir avec conviction, diligence et altruisme.
What has been so marvellous, if I may say so, is the opportunity we have had to explore the nexus between military and civilian operations. A few years ago, with President Karzai of Afghanistan, I founded something called the Turquoise Mountain Foundation in Kabul, to try to protect and restore not only something of what remains of the old, historic part of the city’s former beauty and to keep its famous craft skills alive, but also to restore dignity to the place and to the people. The Foundation merges cultural heritage, education, training and economic development. The results could not be more obvious. Remarkably, for instance, some 15,000 cubic metres of rubbish has been cleared from the streets! 750 square metres of lanes and public spaces have been paved and emergency repairs conducted on more than eighty buildings, including the magnificent historic centre of Kabul, Murad Khane where, as a result, there is now full employment in that part of the city for every man who wants a job. As you can imagine, I am enormously proud of what has been achieved over the past four years by the Director, Rory Stewart, and his team. None of this, I have to say, would have been possible without the generous support of the Government of Canada. I cannot tell you how pleased I am this evening to have met Bev Oda, the Minister of International Co-operation and responsible for CIDA, and I particularly want to take this opportunity to thank her most warmly for such far-sighted assistance.
Plusieurs autres rencontres ont également marqué les esprits. Par exemple, les jeunes entrepreneurs qui développent des compétences et des programmes d’application nationale et internationale que nous avons eu la chance de rencontrer à St Johns et, quelques jours plus tard, à Vancouver. Et les bénévoles qui aident les réfugiés et les nouveaux immigrants à s’adapter aux réalités de la société canadienne. Ce ne sont que quelques exemples parmi tant d’autres de ce souci d’autrui qui nous faire dire, que le Canada n’est pas seulement vivant et en bonne forme, mais qu’il prospère!
In less than one hundred days time, the entire world’s eyes will again turn towards Canada as you host the Winter Olympics. My wife and I saw for ourselves in Vancouver how what you have rightly called “The Green Games” will not only celebrate the excellence of Canada’s athletes – some of whom we had the pleasure of meeting – but also the work of Canadians in raising awareness of climate change and of the kind of changes we will all need to make to our lives – and urgently – if we are to save this – our only - Planet for our children and grandchildren.
There may be less than 100 days to the Winter Olympics, but despite what the climate change sceptics might say, I am afraid we now have less than 100 months – ninety-two to be precise – to take the necessary action to limit catastrophic climate change. First Nation peoples understand this better than most. So, the destiny of future generations lies in the hands of those attending the Copenhagen summit next month, and it is for this reason that I am particularly heartened that iconic Canadian companies such as Royal Bank of Canada, Scotiabank, Bombadier, Cascades, and Four Seasons Hotels have signed a joint communiqué, organized by my Business and the Environment Programme, urging world leaders to agree on cuts in carbon emissions which are guided by the science. The Canadian firms I have mentioned have been joined by companies including Nike, GE, Kodak, eBay, Coca-Cola, Nestle and Yahoo! There are now over 1,000 signatories from similar companies all around the world. These firms are motivated by hard-headed commercial realities – and the very clear wishes of their shareholders, let alone, of course, many of their younger employees who nowadays look to their companies to take a responsible lead.
Governor-General, Prime Minister, when we leave Canada tomorrow we will take with us countless fond memories of our time with you and will continue to keep Canada and Canadians in our minds - and, most importantly, in our hearts - however far away we may be. I take the greatest possible pride in the Canadian regiments and organizations with which I am associated and will continue to follow their achievements with the closest attention. That is why, Ladies and Gentlemen, this evening, my wife and I are not saying "au revoir" as much as "à bientôt." Thank you.