Your Excellencies, Prime Minister and Mrs. Harper, Ladies and Gentlemen, can I just begin by saying, Prime Minister; Premier, how deeply touched my wife and I are by your most generous words of welcome to Canada and, more specifically, to Newfoundland and Labrador.
I cannot tell you how delighted I am to have this opportunity to pay – I can hardly believe! – my fifteenth visit to these shores. That is, by any measure, something rather special. But more special still, if I may say so, is the opportunity to introduce my wife to Canada for her first-ever visit. When I was here many, many years ago I remember saying “Every time I come to Canada … a little more of Canada seeps into my bloodstream – and from there straight to my heart.” For my wife, however, it is both figuratively and literally true that Canada is in her blood, since she has the good fortune to be a great-great-great granddaughter of the Prime Minister of the United Province of Canada, Sir Allan MacNab, who lived in Hamilton, Ontario. We are both eagerly looking forward to discovering those family roots and to seeing her forebears’ home in a few days time.
Aujourd’hui, mon épouse et moi avons la chance d’amorcer une visite d’ onze jours au Canada; visite que nous avions très hâte d’entreprendre. Bien que ce soit ma quinzième visite sur ces côtes, il s’agit d’une première pour mon épouse, qui a de forts liens ancestraux avec ce vaste et magnifique pays. À bien des égards, c’est un peu comme « rentrer à la maison », puisque nous sommes si bien parmi vous.
This country and this province are, of course, well known for the warmth and generosity of their welcome – be it for the handful of determined settlers who sailed into Cupids Bay in the Summer of 1610 and whose four hundredth anniversary celebrations we shall have the great pleasure of marking tomorrow; or the thousands of immigrants, from far away lands, who over the centuries have made Newfoundland and Labrador their home; or, much more recently, the hundreds of stranded passengers aboard the flights diverted here on 11th September 2001, who found a ready welcome when the people of this province opened their homes - and their hearts - to complete strangers in need of comfort and shelter. These are, if I may say so Premier, noble instincts and ones which were, I know, replicated in other provinces of this great country. They stand as an example to the entire international community and something of which all Canadians should be extremely proud.
It was exactly seventy years ago that my Grandparents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, visited Canada – The King becoming the first reigning sovereign to do so. I well recall my Grandmother’s recollections of that landmark visit – chiefly for the descriptions of long train journies and crowds of enthusiastic Canadians at every stop, not to mention my Grandfather’s fascinating cine film taken during the tour. As you so kindly mentioned, Prime Minister, my Grandmother often spoke of “dear Canada” – a heartfelt sentiment that is fully shared by myself, my wife and all the Members of my Family.
I think that this has something to do with our deep respect for the strength of the Canadian character. I say this because when the international call has been sounded over the years Canada has responded with speed, with magnanimity and with great courage. Canadians are remembered on The Somme, at Beaumont Hamel, Ypres and on the towering and poignant Memorial on Vimy Ridge. Major John Macrae’s poem, “In Flanders Fields,” has moved and inspired generations – and, indeed, is the inspiration for the poppies we wear with such pride today. Earlier this Summer, in Normandy, I was able to join you, Prime Minister, to remember the yet further epic acts of heroism of D-Day, which presaged the end of the Second World War. These acts – these universal values for which Canada stands up and is counted - have echoed right across the Twentieth Century and into the Twenty-First. For today, Canadian Servicemen and women are serving not merely Canada’s interests, but global interests in peacekeeping operations in places such as the Middle East, Lebanon and Sudan. And, Ladies and Gentlemen, as Colonel-in-Chief of six Canadian Regiments and the Air Reserve, I know full well that they are serving with the greatest possible distinction in Afghanistan. In all cases, Canadians are bringing the light of freedom and justice to the darker corners of the world. I need hardly say, therefore, how much my heart goes out to the family of Private Steven Marshall who was killed in action only last week and who will make his final journey home to Canada tomorrow, taking his place among those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
Au cours de notre viste, mon épouse et moi-même attendons avec impatience l’occasion de rencontrer le plus de Canadiens et de Canadiennes que possible et de découvrir, de mille et une façons, ce que le Canada a de mieux à offrir. Du patrimoine magnifiquement préservé de Brigus que nous verrons demain, à la rencontre des chefs des premières nations au Village Olympique de Vancouver, en passant par le dynamisme international et vibrant du Cirque du Soleil à Montréal, nous allons célébrer avec vous la diversité et le multiculturalisme qui définissent le Canada moderne.
In a nation which enjoys such natural beauty, I am so pleased that my wife and I will also have an opportunity to learn more about how Canadians are continuing to build – in every sense – a country which is facing up to the many challenges of the modern world. Foremost amongst these, I believe, is the threat posed to all of humanity by climate change. We are at a defining moment for our civilization. Unless we can all, both individually and collectively, take the actions which we now know are necessary, the future is going to be very bleak indeed. So I am delighted that, over the coming days, we will be able to meet some of the Canadians who are at the forefront of developing the crucial solutions on which humanity’s future depends. Just one example is the “green” technology incorporated into the Vancouver/Whistler Olympic village: water harvesting; recycling, efficient and renewable energy usage; and even solar-powered garbage cans! These and other measures are, if I may say so, of the greatest possible importance. I know they are found in many Canadian communities from coast, to coast, to coast; and they stand as examples to the rest of the world of what the new “green” economy can deliver not only in protecting the natural systems we depend upon, but also in terms of new jobs and future prosperity. The leadership and innovation they represent is going to be needed on a huge scale to protect our Planet for our children and grandchildren.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am of course speaking entirely personally here – and I do so because, through the Canadian Regiments and Canadian organizations with which I am closely connected – as Colonel in Chief, as President or as Patron – this country and her people are never far from my thoughts.
Thank you, again, for welcoming us with such characteristic warmth and generosity.