ADDRESS BY THE RT. HON. MICHAELLE JEAN, GOVERNOR GENERAL AND COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF OF CANADA
SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: Her Excellency, the Governor General, is without.
MR. SPEAKER: Let Her Excellency be admitted.
[The Speaker and the Clerks left the Chamber.]
SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: Their Excellencies, the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada, and Mr. Jean-Daniel Lafond.
[Their Excellencies, escorted by Captain Loïc Darras, ADC, and Mr. Ken Greenham, Sergeant-at-Arms, bearing the Mace, entered the House of Assembly Chamber. The Governor General then took her seat on the Throne.
The Sergeant-at-Arms then departed and re-entered the Chamber followed by the Speaker, the Honourable Cecil Clarke; the Chief Clerk of the House, Roderick MacArthur, Q.C.; the Assistant Clerk, Arthur Fordham, Q.C.; and the Assistant Clerk, Neil Ferguson.
The Speaker, with the Sergeant-at-Arms and the Assistant Clerks on his right and the Clerk on his left, took up his position at the foot of the Table of the House.]
SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: It is the wish of Her Excellency, the Governor General, that the ladies and gentlemen be seated.
HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Your Excellencies, honourable colleagues of our historic Legislature, recipients of the Governor General's Caring Canadian Award, Grand Chief and Mrs. Sylliboy, Grand Keptin, ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, and Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege and honour to welcome to Nova Scotia Her Excellency, the Governor General of Canada, Michaëlle Jean, and His Excellency Jean-Daniel Lafond.
Today, my colleagues and I are doubly privileged to receive Your Excellencies here in this Chamber, the first occasion for a Governor General to address the Nova Scotia Legislative Assembly. As the elected members, we are privileged to serve in Canada's oldest seat of government and home to the first responsible government outside of Great Britain. We, along with all Nova Scotians, are part of a rich history that has grown more textured and more worldly through the years. It is notable that Your
Excellencies are here in Nova Scotia to mark and celebrate the achievements and contributions of African Nova Scotians. Indeed, this is a time of reflection and learning as our province's people and our shared culture progress forward.
On behalf of all Nova Scotians, we also appreciate your outreach, speaking and listening to our youth, new Nova Scotians, women leaders, and our civic champions. You are helping us all gain insight, understanding and the tools to be leaders in these times of change; fighting the conditions of poverty, ignorance and pessimism, and clearing the way to build on our strengths and to celebrate the joy of achievement.
Nova Scotians have an unparalleled quality of life. We have beautiful coastlines and landscapes, a vibrant culture, innovative ideas, and a talent to make the most of boundless opportunities. We are succeeding in global business and we are excelling in life. A strong sense of community, whether in our rural villages or in our cities, offers people the balance to truly enjoy life and what the world has to offer. Nova Scotia has a long history and a rich story, but it is not a closed book. I am truly optimistic about our future.
Without further ado, it is my pleasure and honour to introduce Her Excellency to address this Chamber and Nova Scotians. Our Governor General, in her role, and in her own life, leads and reflects a broad range of Canadian interests, accomplishments and expertise. Her Excellency was born in Haiti. She and her family fled Haiti in 1968, seeking to build a new life in Canada. She pursued her studies and academic interests, becoming fluent in five languages: French, English, Italian, Spanish and Creole. Madame Jean worked for eight years with shelters and transition homes for abused women in Quebec. She was also involved in aid organizations for immigrant women and families.
In 1988, she began what would become her brilliant and award-winning career as a journalist and anchor for broadcast information programs at Radio-Canada and CBC. Madame Jean is married to His Excellency Jean-Daniel Lafond and they have a six-year old daughter, Marie Lafond, and their family also includes Mr. Lafond's two daughters and two grandchildren.
Ladies and gentlemen, Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada.
RIGHT HONOURABLE MICHAËLLE JEAN: Mr. Premier, Mr. Speaker, Leader of the Opposition, Members of the Legislative Assembly, distinguished guests, cher amis, it is a great pleasure for my husband, Jean-Daniel Lafond, and me to be here in Halifax on our first official visit to Nova Scotia. It is a great honour to accept this unprecedented invitation to address your Legislature, the home of the first form of
responsible government in the British Empire outside of Great Britain, and the place where four of my predecessors were sworn in as Governors General of Canada.
Steeped in history, the land that you represent has witnessed many of the most decisive events that have helped shape our nation and continues to engage the popular imagination. Look back over more than 400 years and we can clearly see that the history of Nova Scotia is also the history of Canada. The first signs of openness, which are so characteristic of this country, came from the Mi'kmaq First Nations who greeted the European explorers to this land. A legend says that a Mi'kmaq woman dreamed of an island floating towards the land of her people. On this island there were trees and living beings. According to this legend, this vision is the reason why the Mi'kmaq people were not afraid when they saw the first explorers arrive on their ships. On the contrary, they came to them, traded with them, exchanged knowledge with them.
In 1605, Samuel de Champlain and Sieur de Monts founded Port Royal. That marked the beginning of the French presence in North America, as well as an historic meeting between European explorers and the First Nations.
Nova Scotia also played a central role in the struggle between France and Great Britain in the 1700s, most notably at the Fortress at Louisbourg. Later, your province welcomed many United Empire Loyalists who chose to remain British subjects after the American colonies to the south gained their independence. In the 1800s, Nova Scotia prospered as a centre of maritime trade, at the same time enriching this province's unique cultural heritage. In 1867, Nova Scotia entered Confederation as one of the four founding partners in the enterprise known as Canada.
In the 20th Century, Halifax continued to leave its mark on history. The devastating Halifax Explosion reminds of this city's historic role as a great naval port. Pier 21 served as the gateway to new beginnings for more than a million immigrants, refugees and war brides. Literally and figuratively, this city and your province harboured the creation of the Canada we have become. Visiting Pier 21 for the first time last Spring, I was deeply touched by a special exhibit on the Underground Railroad that assisted more than 30,000 Blacks to escape slavery in the United States. By following the North Star to freedom in Canada, they, too, sought a better life. In so doing, they also challenged our nation to forever abandon its own toleration of slavery.
As this is Black History Month in Canada, and the 200th Anniversary of the passing of Britain's Abolition of the Slave Trade Act, I think it is especially important to reflect on this chapter of our collective history. Yesterday morning, on a return visit to Pier 21, I was profoundly moved and inspired by the personal stories of courage and tenacity of a diverse group of immigrant women from all corners of the world, who have achieved their dream of becoming successful, productive and socially-engaged citizens.
Province House, itself, evokes a history rich in lessons about freedom and about nation-building. It was here, after all, that Joseph Howe defended himself against a trumped-up libel charge after exposing government corruption. The oratorical marathon that he performed in this building in 1837, arguing for the importance of free speech, remains legendary among journalists across this country. Although even the most demanding filibuster in this House is unlikely to require any of you to hold the floor for six straight hours, as he did, at least one of his observations is worth committing to memory. To the jurors charged with deciding his fate, Mr. Howe confessed, ". . . when I sit down in solitude to the labours of my profession, the only questions I ask myself are, What is right? What is just? What is for the public good?"
Pouvoir parler franchement de l'injustice, sous toutes ses formes, constitue un élément essentiel de la notion même de démocratie. Et la capacité que nous avons au Canada d'exprimer nos opinions sans restriction, ni censure ni peur, est un cadeau précieux pour lequel des femmes et des hommes du monde entier se battent, et parfois même sacrifiant leur vie. Sans la liberté d'expression, il nous serait impossible de parler ouvertement des injustices du présent ou du passé.
Freedom of speech is essential for us to be able to speak openly about the wrongs of the present, as well as those of the past. Whether it is to lament and learn from the wrenching expulsion of the Acadians in 1755, or the more recent destruction of Africville in the late 1960s and the community spirit that once resided there, despite the tragic treatment of its impoverished residents. This freedom we collectively cherish should also permit us to question circumstances that disadvantage certain of our fellow citizens. Freedom of speech is one of the most powerful tools we have to challenge inequities. And every one of us has a responsibility to take part, because as Martin Luther King, Jr. famously noted, "until all of us are free, none of us is free."
The success of Nova Scotia, like the success of Canada, is compromised when people within the community suffer from poverty or from discrimination of any kind. As Governor General of Canada, I have pledged to use my office to focus attention on the importance of breaking down such solitudes. I believe in taking apart the walls of difference that continue to separate us, those imposed by geography and age, by gender and ethnicity, by language and religion, by education and ability.
How can we eliminate the barriers between us? By listening to one another, by fighting against indifference, by working together. In collaboration, we can find solutions to the social alienation that drives some of our fellow citizens to isolation and despair.
I stand for a society where Aboriginal people, citizens of British and French ancestry, African Canadians, and people of all origins can live together in a spirit of mutual respect. While there is always room for improvement, together we are living an achievement that has eluded many societies. And the freedom of speech that you nurture
in this Chamber is essential to support it. I am honoured to have had the opportunity to begin this dialogue here today, and I look forward to continuing it.
While my husband and I are here, we are participating in meaningful encounters with a wide variety of Nova Scotian communities. I was very impressed by the team and young residents of Phoenix House, whose stories were so encouraging, and last evening's celebration at the Black Cultural Centre was so moving, as it really demonstrated how far Canadian society has progressed.
Yesterday, my husband brought together, for the first time ever at Dalhousie University, francophone community leaders, students and university representatives. Through this groundbreaking discussion, participants forged new ties and discovered new ways of working together. It was a strong reminder that francophones are not alone in wanting to keep the French language alive, nor is it their responsibility alone.
The people of Nova Scotia that you, members of this honourable Assembly represent, have important matters to discuss, inspiring stories to share and valuable lessons to teach us all. I am here to listen and would like to thank the members of this historic House for extending this wonderful invitation to be the first Governor General to address the Nova Scotia Legislative Assembly. Thank you ever so much for the opportunity to address you today. Merci infiniment. Merci de m'accueillir. (Applause)
THE PREMIER: Your Excellency, I would now ask the Leader of the Official Opposition, Leader of the New Democratic Party, to bring remarks.
MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Your Excellency, on behalf of the Official Opposition NDP caucus, welcome to Nova Scotia and to Province House, the home of the first representative democracy in North America. It is a great honour to be given this opportunity to say a few words on the occasion of your first official visit to our province.
As a former member of the Canadian military and the current Opposition Critic for Military Affairs, I'd like to acknowledge your role as Commander-in-Chief of our Armed Forces and your continuing efforts in support of our women and men in uniform. It is a particular honour that you have chosen to visit Nova Scotia in this month set aside to celebrate our diversity - Black History Month.
It is an opportunity to celebrate and acknowledge the vast and vital contributions made by African Nova Scotians to the history of this province from education to athletics, from commerce to the arts, a time of year, as you so aptly put it in your Black History Month message, to remember the women and men who broke down the barriers and fought discrimination, guided by the strength of their convictions and driven by the
hope of a better world: Nova Scotians like Portia White, for whom one of our province's highest artistic honours is named; Bill Riley of Amherst, one of the first Black players in the NHL; Judge Corrine Sparks, for whom a Dalhousie University Law School award was recently named, recognizing her trail-blazing law career; and, of course, young Nova Scotians making their mark like Shauntay Grant, a multi-talented performer, musician and journalist. And let's not forget the African Nova Scotian MLAs who have, only in the past few decades, been able to take their place in this Legislature.
This is a month to celebrate achievements and it is also an opportunity to acknowledge the continuing challenges we face to ensure that all Nova Scotians share in our prosperity. Thank you again for visiting our province at this important time of year. I know that I will get agreement when I say that in the relatively short time you have been our Governor General, Canadians have come to recognize that you embody how we see ourselves and what we still strive to be. It's in the passion that you brought to your earlier work to better the lives of women and children across the country, efforts that are a reflection of Canadians' compassion and caring that is the envy of other countries of the world.
It's in your work to help immigrants to our country that reflects our shared goal of creating a more open and tolerant society, and it is your efforts as Canada's Governor General representing to the world, the best that our country has to offer. As I said, your actions and your words not only remind us of what we have achieved but also what we continue to strive for. That is best reflected in our youth and the hope for a brighter future. I know in your visit you have had the opportunity meet with young people and those who are working to ensure that they meet their potential. The kind of youthful energy and enthusiasm that you have brought to the job of Governor General is an inspiration to young people, here and across the country. Thank you, again, for your visit to our province. As you know, Nova Scotians are famous for their hospitality, so drop in and visit us any time you like. The tea is always on. (Applause)
THE PREMIER: Your Excellency, I will now call upon the Leader of the Liberal Party, to bring remarks.
MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Thank you, Mr. Premier. On behalf of the Nova Scotia Liberal caucus, I would like to extend a sincere and warm welcome to Her Excellency, Governor General Michaëlle Jean, and His Excellency, Mr. Jean-Daniel Lafond. Au nom de mes collègues du comité électoral libéral je vous souhaite la bienvenue dans notre province et à notre assemblée législative.
Our caucus is extremely proud to be part of this significant and historical event. It's the first time ever a Governor General has addressed our House of Assembly in this historic Province House - the oldest Legislature in Canada. The Liberal caucus would also like to extend congratulations to Her Excellency on receiving the Black Cultural
Society's Award of Distinction for Excellence, a fitting tribute to a Governor General who has become a positive role model for youth in Canada and in her native Haiti.
We have 48 African Nova Scotian communities in this province that all celebrate a proud heritage, stretching back as far as the 17th Century. African Heritage Month is currently in its second decade in Nova Scotia, and we are proud the Governor General is here to mark the event with us. I would like to thank the Governor General for reaching out to so many people during her time here in Nova Scotia. A visit to the Black Cultural Centre, a generous donation to Phoenix House in Her Excellency's name, and Her Excellency's discussion with women who have immigrated to our great province, really make a difference.
I would also like to pass on our gratitude to His Excellency, Monsieur Lafond, for taking the time to speak with our artistic community, making us all understand that art really does matter in our society. I also want to thank Monsieur Lafond, who sat with francophone community leaders. Comme vous le savez la communauté acadienne du laquelle je fais part avec mon collègue, M. Wayne Gaudet, la région de Clare, et l'honorable ministre de la Santé, M. d'Entremont, de la région Argyle, et la communauté francophone de la Nouvelle-Écosse partage votre langue maternelle, le français. Nous aussi faisons partie de la communauté minoritaire içi en Nouvelle-Écosse. Votre visite et votre appui nous touchent au coeur.
Today, the Liberal caucus would also like to pass along congratulations to the six recipients of the Governor General's Caring Canadian Award. These individuals generously give of themselves, to their communities, while asking for nothing in return. They are an example to us all.
Before I close, I would like to invite the Governor General and His Excellency to return to Nova Scotia soon. There are many incredible communities whose people would welcome them warmly. Allow me to be so bold as to invite you to my home region - along with the regions of the Premier and several of our colleagues - on Cape Breton Island, where we would love to be able to host Her Excellency and His Excellency, hopefully in the very near future. In case you haven't heard, as was mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition, Nova Scotian hospitality is second to none. We are all very anxious to demonstrate to the world, how wonderful this province really is. Encore une fois un grand merci pour votre visite à notre province. Bon succès. Thank you. Merci beaucoup. (Applause)
THE PREMIER: Your Excellency, we may even throw a fiddle tune in along with that cup of tea.
We are honoured that Their Excellencies, the Governor General and her accomplished spouse, M. Lafond, have come here to our province. To mark the occasion
of their visit, the Province of Nova Scotia has presented a gift in the form of a donation to the Phoenix Youth Programs. These highly-respected programs for at-risk and homeless youth here in Halifax provide continual support including education; employment; and emotional, social and independent-living programs. Dedicated staff and volunteers deliver these programs at Phoenix House, Phoenix Centre, the Learning and Employment Centre, supervised apartments and more. I know that Her Excellency's visit with Phoenix House staff, volunteers and youth participants inspired them and so many Nova Scotians.
Earlier this morning, Her Excellency also recognized the vital role people play each and every day, giving of themselves and of their communities. Her Excellency presented the Governor General's Caring Canadian Award to some outstanding Nova Scotians, recognizing their dedicated volunteer work, and we are fortunate to have with us here today these individuals who have shown a lifetime of giving back to others. These men and women from six communities throughout Nova Scotia are here in the Speaker's Gallery, and I would like to take this opportunity to ask them to rise so that my fellow members and I may acknowledge the years of service they have given to their communities, and also to the citizens of our great province. (Standing Ovation)
Your Excellencies, on behalf of all Nova Scotians - with loyalty, affection and esteem - we bid you welcome and continued success. Thank you for being here with us today and visiting our great province. Thank you very much. (Applause)
SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: Please rise for the departure of Their Excellencies.
[The Speaker and the Clerks left the Chamber.]
[The Governor General left the Chamber.]