The Rt. Hon. Ramon J. Hnatyshyn Former Governor General of Canada and
Counsel, Gowling Strathy & Henderson
CANADA 1999-ONE CANADIAN'S PERSPECTIVE
Chairman: Robert J. Dechert
President, The Empire Club of Canada
Head Table Guests
Edward P. Badovinac, Professor Emeritus, Dept, of Telecommunications, George Brown College, Counsel, Royal Commonwealth Society of Canada, Toronto Branch and a Director, The Empire Club of Canada; Reverend Dr. Robert Pierson, St. Philips Anglican Church; William Buchanan, Treasurer, Royal Commonwealth Society of Canada, Toronto Branch; Steve Burchmore, Manager, Community Relations, Enbridge Consumers Gas; Noreen Clement, Chairman, Royal Commonwealth Society of Canada, Toronto Branch and Teacher, Burnhamthorpe Collegiate Institute; MGen. Bruce J. Legge, C.M.M., KStJ, E.D., C.D., Q.C., Partner, Legge & Legge, Honorary Life Chairman, Royal Commonwealth Society of Canada, Honorary Life Chairman, Royal Commonwealth Society of Canada, Toronto Branch and a Past President, The Empire Club of Canada; John Grant, Q.C., Counsel, Gowling Strathy & Henderson and Former Chairman, Toronto Sun Publishing Corporation; Major The Hon. Mr. Joseph H. Potts, C.D.,
Superior Court of Justice, Ontario and a Past President, The Empire Club of Canada; and Peter Mansbridge, Chief Correspondent and Co-Host of The National News, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
Introduction by Robert J. Dechert
Ladies and gentlemen, our guest speaker today needs little introduction to most Canadians. However, the accomplishments of our distinguished former Governor General are so impressive, that I believe they bear repeating in the spirit of honouring Canadian achievement.
A native of Saskatchewan, Mr. Hnatyshyn received his law degree from the University of Saskatchewan in 1956, and was called to the bar in Saskatchewan in 1957.
He was elected to Parliament in 1974 and served in the House of Commons until 1988. During that time, he filled a wide range of roles, including Minister of State for Science and Technology, Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, Government House Leader, President of the Privy Council, Minister responsible for Regulatory Affairs, and Minister of Justice and Attorney General.
He served as Governor General and Commander in Chief of Canada from January 1990 to February 1995.
Mr. Hnatyshyn has received numerous awards for his public- and private-sector endeavours including the St. Volodymyr medal award from the World Congress of Ukrainians. In 1990, he was appointed an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons. He has also been appointed Doctor of Common Law at the University of Ottawa, Doctor of Canon Law at the University of Emmanuel College, Doctor of Civil Law at Bishop's University and Doctor of Philosophy at Yonsei University in Korea.
And of course being the generous kind of man that he is, I know that he will tell you his greatest achievement of all is being one of my partners at Gowling, Strathy & Henderson since 1995.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is my honour and privilege to introduce to you a man who represents one of the best examples of Canadian achievement, The Right Honourable Ramon John Hnatyshyn.
Honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen:
Thank you for your kind words of introduction.
It is a great honour for me to address this Canada Day luncheon under the auspices of The Empire Club of Canada and The Royal Commonwealth Society. Indeed it was my distinct pleasure to have addressed The Empire Club of Canada eight years ago while I served as Governor General of Canada. And while I have not been approached by the speaker's organising committee, I have marked off dates in 2007, 2015, 2023 and so on for my next appearances before you.
What is the old saying? "You don't need new jokes, just a new audience." In any event, I look forward to seeing you all in those future years.
The stated purpose of the Empire Club-and I paraphrase the provisions of your constitution of 86 years-is to promote the interests of Canada and the Commonwealth by the consideration and discussion of subjects and events relating thereto and by any other means appropriate.
Well that is pretty strong language in support of our country and the Commonwealth-and so be it. For me the truth of the matter is this: for people who care deeply about Canada, addressing an Empire Club audience is always an especially rewarding experience. Why? Because the Empire Club gathers together what Canada needs °badly at this moment: people of intelligence and passion. There is no finer combination when it comes to nation building.
People of passion share a common trait. They care. They care enough to get involved. And that is why you are here.
People of intelligence share a common trait as well: they understand that there are rarely simple answers to complex questions. Your members are well aware of that. If the Empire Club is anything, it is a place where people attempt to go beyond conventional wisdom to examine more subtle and difficult concepts.
Canada is not a simple country. The world is all too full of people who think governance should be simplified and who offer simple solutions to disagreements-solutions that too often involve bullets, or tyranny, or both.
That is not us. Our national unity and constitutional debates may sometimes seem endless and we lament the drain on our national energies. But one only needs to look around this tattered globe to recognise the importance of the way Canadians are handling their crises peacefully, how they are channelling their passions through a filter of good sense.
And internationally, regarding the turmoil we witness on a daily basis, one might be tempted to overlook the important role the Commonwealth continues to play in the world.
The Commonwealth is first and foremost a valued example of international friendship and co-operation in the interest of world peace. While the Commonwealth may be a loose association of nations, there is a common link of experience that Canadians share with other citizens of Commonwealth countries. Those of us who have had the opportunity to visit other Commonwealth countries know firsthand the special, almost family relationship which exists between member countries around the world.
For Canada, the benefits which we derive from the Commonwealth may not be the type which makes daily headlines. They are quiet but ongoing, offering stability in a world of change. We are a country that traditionally depends on harmonious international relationships, rather than international might, to achieve our goals at home or abroad. Through our position in the Commonwealth, we have been able to forge strong, friendly relations with many African, Asian and Caribbean nations.
That the Commonwealth thrives today reflects not only its emotional value, but its social and political worth as well. Under the aegis of the Commonwealth, parliamentary democracies have flourished throughout the world.
We are gathered here today to celebrate the birthday of a dream. One hundred and thirty-two years ago, the people who lived in a small group of colonies came together to form a nation.
The Canada born that day was very different from the one in which we now live. The provinces of the new Confederation extended only from the eastern side of the Straits of Northumberland to the western border of the newly named Province of Ontario. But even that small nation, with a population of little more than three million people, was a miracle; for many years a miracle that had seemed unlikely.
This country was not founded in the fiery forge of war; it was the result of complex and sometimes painful negotiations, which were successful only after initial failure.
In time, Canada grew from sea to sea to sea marked this year with the creation of the new Territory of Nunavut. In the words of our national motto-A mari usque ad mare-people worked together to gain understanding of their different views and then found solutions agreeable to all.
No matter how dark the times, there were always men and women of every political persuasion and from every part of the country who, by the force of their determination and the magnitude of their dream, were able to will Canada into being.
It is easy to love the enormity, the variety and the seasons that so characterise our country, but Canada is more than a postcard. To really care about it, we have to care about all those that share it with us, in all their diverse histories, aspirations, needs and concerns.
As we celebrate Canada Day, there is every reason for us to continue to be optimistic about ourselves individually and as a people. We are, as we have always been, a nation of people willing to take risks together, eager to live peacefully in the world and unafraid of the future.
Perhaps that is why Canadians have changed the world way out of proportion to our actual numbers.
I note from the brochure to the membership announcing this Canada Day luncheon that reference was made to an award received by me from the World Congress of Ukrainians and I was reminded that this is a country of unlimited potential and incredible opportunity.
My grandparents came to Canada in the early part of this century to homestead in Saskatchewan. In order to qualify for a homestead in those days, one was expected to improve the quarter section over a period of five years by clearing the land, erecting buildings, acquiring livestock and breaking the soil. On completion of the five-year term, the homesteader received a freehold title.
My father was born in the old country and was brought, at the age of two months, to Canada by my grandmother to join my grandfather.
It took a lot of courage for people to leave their homes in Ukraine, to travel the length of Europe, to cross the Atlantic by ship and then to travel to their final destination some 3,000 miles away by train from Quebec City. They came to Canada with nothing except those belongings which they could carry with them, without extensive education, without financial backing and obliged to build their new homes from scratch with their bare hands.
A few years ago, a friend of mine who worked in the Archives in Saskatchewan came across the homestead certificate of my grandfather, Michael Hnatyshyn, by which he received the title for his homestead. My grandfather arrived in Canada neither speaking nor writing English or French and accordingly signed the homestead papers with his mark.
These documents caused me to reflect upon and appreciate the legacy of my forbears and the extraordinary opportunities afforded by our wonderful country. My grandparents were determined that their children would have the education they were denied and, their son, my father, through the sacrifices made by his parents, graduated in law from the University of Saskatchewan and became the first ever Saskatonian to serve in the Senate of Canada-and I, a grandson, have been honoured to have served in the Parliament and Government of Canada and as Governor General.
Well, I am approaching an anniversary of sorts. Nearly 10 years ago, the Prime Minister announced that Her Majesty had approved my nomination as Governor General of Canada and Commander in Chief. Ten years is a snap of a finger in terms of world history, but there have been an astounding number of historical occurrences during that brief span of time.
It seems like only yesterday that my appointment was announced. But in reality that was a different time.
The Berlin Wall was still casting a huge shadow and Germany was two countries. Yugoslavia was one country, with a superbly balanced constitution on paper that was not matched by enough good will amongst its citizens to withstand the bitter forces of historic nationalist grievances.
Apartheid was still at the core of South African state policy. The only way the country could survive in a manner satisfactory to the whites, it was thought, was to divide the races.
When we look abroad, we cannot help but feel for our fellow citizens on this earth. We feel their elation when they succeed, their pain when disaster strikes. Much of the despair we have had to watch in recent years-in Eastern Europe, in the Middle East, in Asia, in so many places-has resulted from a failure to come together in a common cause, to rise above jealousies and old grievances and form new partnerships for the future.
But in the main, it is the coming together, whether within the European Community, between whites and blacks in South Africa, the Irish of Northern Ireland, the
Israelis and Palestinians or among political factions in Cambodia, that signals hope for the future.
Coming together is not always easy. Sometimes bitterness clings like sharp nettles. Sometimes past injustices have left wounds that are too deep to heal.
Does anyone in this room believe that to be the case in Canada? I don't think so. As Governor General I travel about 125,000 kilometres each year across this country, visiting communities of every size and speaking to people of every racial, ethnic and economic background.
I continue to travel extensively from coast to coast. People have spoken to me at length about their aspirations for Canada and their perceptions of what others want. These perceptions are occasionally distorted. This is, after all, a huge country and we do not always know our neighbours as well as we should.
But bitterness? Hostility? Hatred? These are rare commodities in Canada-as rare as they are ubiquitous in less fortunate parts of the world.
Canada has accomplished what the European Community dreams of doing: it has unified peoples of vastly different backgrounds without interfering with their right to be themselves. Indeed everywhere I have been, the feeling was the same. Canadians love this country. They are proud of what we have built together and they believe in their hearts that Canada must and will stay together.
While we were at Rideau Hall, Gerda and I initiated "The Canadian Heritage Garden" to celebrate the first 125 years of Confederation. The garden is now nearing completion and will soon be open as a focal point for the more than 70,000 visitors and heads of state received annually at Rideau Hall, the only official residence which is open to the public.
In working on the development of this wonderful heritage garden which evokes two themes-the evolution of Canadian nationhood and the contribution of peoples of diverse ancestry to our social fabric my wife and I were reminded of, and moved with renewed pride in, the enormous accomplishments of our country and its people.
I should say that I am extremely proud of Gerda who single-handedly raised more than $2 million from private benefactors to provide this gift to the people of Canada. Gerda and I hope that you will all have the opportunity to visit the Canadian Heritage Garden at Rideau Hall--a testament to what we have done and what we can be.
Let me conclude on a personal note. Serving as your Governor General was for me an enormous honour as well as an incredible privilege. I have had the opportunity of visiting every part of our country to experience the great pride that the overwhelming majority of our citizens have in Canada. I only wish that the experience I have had could be shared by all Canadians, as we have so much to be thankful for and so much for which to be proud.
The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by Noreen Clement, Chairman, Royal Commonwealth Society of Canada, Toronto Branch and Teacher, Burnhamthorpe Collegiate Institute.