Governor General of Canada / Gouverneur général du Canadaa



Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean
Speech on the Occasion of the Official Opening of the Order of Canada 40th Anniversary Exhibit

Ottawa, Thursday, June 7, 2007

My husband, jean-Daniel Lafond, and I are delighted to be with you for the official opening of this exhibition celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Order of Canada.

I’d like to begin by thanking Library and Archives Canada for the crucial role they have played in making this exhibition a reality.

One of my goals in this anniversary year is to dedicate a space to raise the profile of the Order of Canada and its members.

We need a place, a space devoted to their accomplishments and contributions, and equipped to raise awareness among Canadians of the Order and the Canadian Honours System.

This exhibition fits in with that vision, and is a promising first step toward achieving that goal, which will enable us to show our pride—the pride of all Canadians—in what these women and men have accomplished, their commendable actions and all their expertise.

It is very important that Canadians understand the nature and significance of our country’s Honours System, which recognizes meritorious acts of many different kinds. Its history is worthy of great interest.

As many of you know, honours in this country have a complicated and controversial background. Even the Order of Canada had to overcome numerous obstacles before it saw the light of day.

For example, in the course of its evolution even its name wasn’t certain, with possibilities like the Order of the Beaver, the Order of St. Lawrence and the Royal Elizabethan Order being suggested at different times!

As well, when the final proposal for the new Order went to the Cabinet in 1966, it was approved with only one level, not the three we know today. The idea of having three levels was rejected by some cabinet ministers as elitist.

Today we know better. We know that it is not elitist to celebrate excellence. And when we bestow the Order of Canada on one of our fellow citizens we’re not saying “you’re better than the rest of us.” What we’re really saying is “you reflect the best in all of us.”

You and your actions, your ideas and your accomplishments inspire us, make us proud, and make us realize how one can make a difference.

As you will see when you visit the exhibit, the people who have received the Order of Canada are truly role models for us all.

They have achieved remarkable things, in every field imaginable. Some are world famous, and adored by millions; others are unknown outside their communities, but cherished beyond measure by the people whose lives they’ve touched.

But all of them have lived by the motto of the Order: “They Desire a Better Country.” We are all so fortunate that these accomplished people acted on that desire.

Today I am very proud to join you in paying tribute to them again, in this special exhibition.

Thank you.

Created: 2007-06-07
Updated: 2007-06-12
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