Christmas Luncheon
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 13 Dec 2001, p. 240-244
Weston, The Hon. Hilary M., Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
Some personal reminiscences. The Lieutenant-Governor's Community Volunteer Award. What Christmas is all about.
Date of Original
13 Dec 2001
Language of Item
Copyright Statement
The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.
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Full Text
The Hon. Hilary M. Weston Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario
Seasons Greetings from The Hon. Hilary M. Weston
Chairman: Bill Laidlaw
President, The Empire Club of Canada

Head Table Guests

David A. Edmison, President, Martin Lucas & Seagram Independent Investment Counsel and Past President, The Empire Club of Canada; Jill Malleck, Senior Human Resources Consultant, Manulife Financial and Founder, "Send'em Off Smiling" Program; Annie Tung, Senior Honour Student, Parkdale Collegiate Institute; Stevie Cameron, Author and Convenor, "Out of the Cold" Program for Seniors, St. Andrews Presbyterian Church; Robert MacDermid, Partner, Kerzner, MacDermid McKillop and Vice-Chair, The United Way of Peel Region; Susan Cox, Executive Director, Daily Bread Food Bank; His Honour W. Galen Weston, OC, Chair, George Weston Limited; Commissioner William Luttrell, Territorial Commander, The Salvation Army for Canada and Bermuda; The Most Reverend Terence E. Finlay, Archbishop of the Ecclestiastical Province of Ontario, Archbishop of The Diocese of Toronto Anglican Church and Honorary Chaplain, The Empire Club of Canada; Ken Shaw, National Editor, CFTO Television and Director, The Empire Club of Canada; Isobel Laidlaw, Member of The Empire Club of Canada and Mother of the President; Raminder Gill, MP, Member of Parliament, Brampton-WestMississauga; Major William A. Duncan, CD, Member of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada in WWII, Retired Chief of Personnel, Canada Post and Honorary Director, The Empire Club of Canada; Sally Horshfall Eaton, Recent Chair, Advisory Board on the Volunteer Sector for the Province of Ontario, Chair, St. John's Rehabilitation Hospital and Chair "Breakfast for Learning," The Canadian Living Foundation; Jay Hope, Chief Superintendent and Regional Commander, Ontario Provincial Police; and Gareth S. Seltzer, President and CEO, TWS Petroleum Limited and TWS Private Management and Past President, The Empire Club of Canada.

The Empire Club of Canada has continued the tradition of Christmas since 1913 with its Christmas luncheon, and lieutenant-governors have graced its head table since 1963.

Her Honour, Hilary M. Weston, Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario, is a valued friend of the club and its Honorary Vice-President. Her Honour is highly regarded as a respected, sensitive, influential and effective member of our community and therefore it is with both regret and appreciation that we invite Her Honour to bring to the club, its members and guests--and our media audience--her final address and greetings from Her Majesty the Queen in her capacity as Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario. Please welcome, Her Honour, Hilary M. Weston.

Hilary Weston

Thank you for inviting me to the annual Empire Club Christmas luncheon. You may well be happy to hear that, this year, my remarks will be somewhat shorter than usual. To be honest, I'm not sure if my voice would hold out for more than a few minutes, as I've recently made more farewell appearances than Frank Sinatra!

Once again, I find myself in good company at our head table. And I am happy to say that we all had lots to talk about during lunch. I was delighted to have the opportunity earlier to chat with William Duncan, a veteran of World War II. My respect for the selfless sacrifice of Canadians in wartime has grown hugely through my participation in Remembrance Day ceremonies across Southern Ontario.

I am also pleased to see Chief Superintendent Jay Hope of the OPP, the highest-ranking Black police officer in Ontario-and, I might add, a loyal Aide-de-Camp, serving the Office of the Lieutenant-Governor as a volunteer.

As Jay can attest, in the past five years I have met many amazing people. I've visited places in Ontario that I might never otherwise have seen, and have listened to the stories and concerns of a broad spectrum of citizens. And, notwithstanding the gravity and historical significance of this role, I have had a lot of fun!

Looking back over my term, I think I would have to say that I have especially enjoyed the time that I spent with volunteers. Volunteers have always seemed to me to be very special people, motivated by ideals of service and the desire to make this a better world for all of us. Which is why, in 1998, we inaugurated the Lieutenant-Governor's Community Volunteer Award, as a way of honouring those unsung heroes of our society.

The joy of that award was that it was always given as a complete surprise to the recipients. When I would announce the presentation in the course of a visit or reception, the recipients would invariably be shocked that anybody, let alone the lieutenant-governor, should consider their actions to be praiseworthy. In fact, Sue Cox from the Daily Bread Food Bank and Commissioner Bill Luttrell from the Salvation Army may attest to the astonishment of the volunteers to whom I presented the award on drop-in visits to Daily Bread and to a Salvation Army women's shelter in Brampton.

One recipient wrote to me afterwards, saying that she neither deserved the award, nor needed it, for she gained far more from her voluntary activities than she felt she actually gave. She used a wonderful expression, referring to the "voluntariness" of her life. In other words, she equated voluntarism with ordinariness.

Well, I must respectfully disagree with her, for I still believe that volunteers are amongst the most special people on this planet. Just last week, I hosted a reception at Queen's Park to celebrate International Volunteer Day. We asked volunteer organisations to propose for the guest list; not directors and senior managers, but frontline volunteers, who normally do not attend such events.

So I can tell you that when I walked into that reception, I felt as if I had received a shot of adrenaline. There was so much positive energy emanating from all those people, that it occurred to me I could be accused of being a "volunteer groupie," because I get such a terrific emotional charge from being around such wonderful people.

Another joy of the last five years was the opportunity to spend time with children and young people. They were singularly unimpressed by the pomp and circumstance surrounding the lieutenant-governor, but being children they were nevertheless curious to know how it all affected me. On one occasion, when I spoke to a class about the vice-regal role, explaining how I represent Her Majesty the Queen in Ontario, one young lady summed it all up for her classmates and her teacher by saying: "So, you're a kind of supply Queen, right?"

Buoyed up by their unquenchable optimism, young people are unstoppable as volunteers. When they become involved in working for a cause or a community endeavour, their youthful idealism can galvanise even the most jaded. They are also, perhaps, more likely than older volunteers to realise how much they gain from their community activities, in terms of their own growth.

One young woman said: "When deciding to volunteer, I thought `Well, what do I have to lose?' Little did I know just how much I had to gain. I have learned more than I ever dreamed I could... and gained great work experience."

On another occasion, a young man told me: "Sometimes volunteering can be frustrating, uncomfortable, and sometimes you wish you were doing something else. However, all experiences usually turn out to be good experiences [though], as Winston Churchill once said: `Some of them can be well disguised at the time."'

Well, I think I can safely say that speaking at the Empire° Club, particularly at this time of year, has been amongst the good experiences of my life over the past five years. Several times, you have given me an opportunity to tell you stories of courage and compassion, of ordinary cite zens who have given so much to their communities.

And as I look back on my five years in office, I sometimes wonder if I've given all that I could in celebrating the achievements and supporting the needs of our fellow citizens. In the face of the tremendous social needs all around us, I believe that we must ask ourselves: "What can we give?"

Perhaps the answer lies in the words of my favourite carol, "In the Bleak Midwinter." It closes with the lines, "if I were a wise man/I would do my part/Yet what can I give?/Give my heart."

As Jean Vanier once said: "Perhaps what Christmas is all about, is to help us rediscover... the fact that we have hearts and are capable of loving."

So at this special time of the year, when communities all across Ontario gather to celebrate the end of Ramadan, the beginning of Hanukkah, and the advent of Christmas, I would like to wish each and every one of you a happy holiday season!

The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by Gareth S. Seltzer, President and CEO, TWS Petroleum Limited and TWS Private Management and Past President, The Empire Club of Canada.

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Christmas Luncheon

Some personal reminiscences. The Lieutenant-Governor's Community Volunteer Award. What Christmas is all about.