Message by Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, on Canada Day
July 1, 2020
Hello, everyone. Atelihai!
Wherever you are in our great country, greetings to you all.
A special salute to the men and women who serve Canada in uniform, and to the people of the First Nations, the Métis and the Inuit.
Every year, on this first day of July, at the beginning of the summer season, so spectacular and so vital in these northern latitudes, we take a moment to think about our good fortune and to celebrate who we are.
This year is a little different. Because we have had to look out for one another like never before. Because this year, we have been tested.
We are just now carefully emerging from months of fighting a deadly invisible enemy, with unprecedented measures, and thanks to the tireless work of those who helped slow down the virus and kept the country running.
Have you ever watched toddlers interact with one another? They will often try to take away each other’s toys, and act selfishly, but a parent or a caregiver will come along to teach them to share and to be generous.
We are taught the basics of social interaction from the very beginning.
Yet, if you observe further, you might see something else kick in: a basic instinct. Especially if one baby starts crying, the other will want to console and to stop the hurt. The baby will show compassion.
So are we born with compassion or is it acquired in our upbringing? And if it is within us, as we grow up and mature, does it get re-emphasized or does it get destroyed – depending on our life experience?
I believe there are many crossroads, along the road of life, where we have to make choices and decide which direction we take. This is exactly what we witnessed throughout the country in these trying times.
The virus brought physical distancing and social isolation, pain and death.
In response, Canadians chose compassion and solidarity. They chose to live with one eye on their individual needs and the other eye on the common good.
And we were quick to reinvent ourselves: from teleworking to online classes, from virtual artistic performance to “2-meter shopping”, we have adapted and found creative ways to connect, to support each other, to reach out, to graduate, to show gratitude, to play outside, to train, to perform, and to inspire.
The pandemic has also forced us to look beyond ourselves. Because we love each other, even at a distance. It has forced us to make sure that we support workers, families and businesses; that we stand for the most vulnerable, the less fortunate; that we ensure the security and well-being of all; and that we denounce hatred and violence in all its forms. Because the inequalities and the racial divides of our society resurfaced in a fury, exposing, again, the flaws and shortcomings that we so need to address.
Our diversity is one of our greatest assets. There would be no invention, no creativity, no freedom, if we were all the same. What makes us unique, our differences, are the strength of our nation’s fabric.
Just like the toddlers grow into adults, did a mature 153-year-old Canada grow into a caring nation?
Will we remember the lessons of the 2020 pandemic, of the unspeakable shooting in Nova Scotia, of the importance of reconciliation? I am confident that we have, and that we will not remain indifferent, because we care.
Today, let us celebrate the generosity and the resilience of everyone throughout the country, proud and free.
Happy Birthday, Canada!