Remarks by Prime Minister Trudeau on Celebrating Canada Day on Parliament Hill
July 1, 2017
Hello, everyone! Happy Canada Day!
What a crowd! We’re Canadian! We’re not going to let a little weather slow us down, are we?
You know, I’m pretty confident that we’re breaking records here on Parliament Hill. And we should be, because today, we’re celebrating Canada 150!
I’d like to acknowledge that we are on the ancestral lands of the Algonquin people. And I want to start with a thank you.
To the hundreds of thousands here on the Hill, coming together in our nation’s capital, thank you for being here.
And to the millions more, in your homes across the country, maybe watching through the screen door while trying not to burn the hot dog buns on the barbecue (remember, lightly toasted); or chilling with friends and neighbours in the local park, festooned in red and white, thank you for celebrating with us today.
And to our expat friends and family, gathered in far-off places like the Maple Leaf Pub in London or the Big Bite in Hong Kong, thanks for joining us, we love you and miss you right back! And I have no idea what time it is where you are, but... cheers!
And also, of course, I’d also like to thank Their Royal Highnesses, The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall for being with us today to mark this tremendous celebration. Thank you, my friends!
150 years since Confederation. A nice, round number that’s as good a reason to celebrate as any. To throw a massive party and invite the friends and neighbours. To reflect on our past, to cheer on today, and to recommit ourselves to the future. But let’s not kid ourselves: today isn’t really our 150th birthday. We’re much older than that: Canada, and the idea of Canada, goes much further back than just 150 years. For thousands of years, in this place, people have met, traded, built, loved, lost, fought and grieved. They built strong communities, they worked hard to build better lives for their kids, and learned to lean on their neighbours. You learn to lean on your neighbours in this place to get through the long cold winter nights, to thrive in the daunting landscapes that stretch across Turtle Island.
And for several hundred years now, families have made the great voyage seeking a better future for their children, and they chose to build a life here. And again, the support of neighbours and those already here has made both individual success and strong communities possible. Of course, Canada is much older than 150 years. But let’s be honest, Canada is younger, too. A number of you will say that our country was born exactly one hundred years ago, when Canadians from across the country were brought together for the first time – when they fought side by side, when they grieved the loss of their own and celebrated their victory together, in a faraway place called Vimy. The bravery we demonstrated on that day would echo at Dieppe, Juno, Kandahar and the list goes on.
But we took our place on the world stage, too, through constructive engagement: from the crisis in the Suez to the floor of the UN. By welcoming the world to come see who we are, as we figured out for ourselves with Expos 67 and 86. With Olympic Games in Montréal, in Calgary, in Vancouver.
But if we’re going to talk sports, maybe we became a nation with the Summit Series, in ‘72, hen ‘we all squeezed he stick and we all pulled the trigger.’ r was it in ‘65, when we chose our beloved Maple Leaf flag? Maybe it didn’t really happen, us becoming a nation, until we brought home the Constitution, and defined ourselves through the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a mere 35 years ago.
So really, I guess 150 years is as good a date as any, because it lets us really celebrate all of that, and so much more, today.
In 1867, we saw Canadian Confederation become a reality through the compromise and vision of John A. Macdonald and George-Étienne Cartier, among others. It was a partnership between four provinces that grew into something much greater: an extraordinary, prosperous and generous country, a land where anything is possible.
Canada has been blessed with leaders of all stripes who recognized how special this place is. Leaders who believed in the Canadian dream, who built railways and highways and seaways to connect us to each other, and to the world. These projects became the backbone of Canada, infrastructure worthy of a great nation.
But the story of Canada cannot be confined to grand acts of nation building. The story of Canada is really the story of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. The valour of Francis Pegahmagabow, The courage of Viola Desmond. The leadership of Thérèse Casgrain. The tenacity of Terry Fox. It’s in these people that the true story of Canada is told. Their triumphs are unique, but the values that underpin them are Canadian values.
William Lyon Mackenzie King once said that citizenship is public service “in one form or another.” He was right. Being a citizen of Canada goes hand in hand with serving Canada. With believing in something bigger than ourselves. Because this country has given us so much to be grateful for.
Millions of people from around the world have chosen Canada as their home. But others were born into such luck. But our stories are similar. This is where we met our childhood friends, where we fell in love for the first time, where we raised our children. My friends, the greatest gift we’ve ever been given is the gift of Canadian citizenship.
Louis St. Laurent referred to Canada as a place where people joined their talents without merging their identities. And it’s true. Canada is a country made strong not in spite of our differences but because of them. We don’t aspire to be a melting pot – indeed, we know true strength and resilience flows through Canadian diversity.
Ours is a land of original peoples and of newcomers. And our greatest pride is that you can come here from anywhere in the world, build a good life, and be part of our community. We don’t care where you’re from or what religion you practice or whom you love. You are all welcome in Canada.
But let’s not forget that if Canada is a genuine multicultural nation, open to the world, it’s no coincidence. Indeed, the very unity of our country 150 years ago hinged on the acceptance of multiple languages and cultures. It hinged on the peaceful coexistence – and active cooperation – between people who were different from one another.
Ours is a nation of official bilingualism – a central, definitive part of our identity. We speak English and French, with hundreds more languages spoken from coast to coast to coast.
And so, diversity has always been at the very core of Canada over the centuries. It’s the foundation upon which our country was built. We may be of every colour and creed, from every corner of the world...We may live in British Columbia. Yukon. The Northwest Territories. Saskatchewan. Manitoba. Nunavut. Ontario. Quebec. New Brunswick. Prince Edward Island. Nova Scotia. Or Newfoundland and Labrador. But we embrace that diversity, while knowing in our hearts that we are all Canadians and that we share a common pride in that red and white flag.
But when we look back at our history, we see that our past is far from perfect. We know that, while many of us celebrate Canada 150, others do not. Indigenous Peoples in this country have faced racism and oppression for centuries – since early explorers believed they had found a new world.
As a society, we must acknowledge and apologize for past wrongs, and chart a path forward – one that promises a bright future for all Canadians. We’ve got a long way to go to make things right with the First Nations, Métis and Inuit in Canada. But we have begun that journey, together.
As a country, we vow to set a new course – one in which a nation-to-nation, Inuit-to-Crown, and government-to-government relationship with Indigenous Peoples is a top priority.
This is what we have to remember: We can achieve reconciliation. But in order to get there, we must educate ourselves, and dedicate our efforts to progress, and work very, very hard to see it through over the coming years and decades.
It is a choice we make, not because of what we did, or what we were, but because of who we are.
Let us be known the world over for our integrity, for our compassion, and for our never-ending desire to be better, so we can do better.
That’s the Canadian way. Whether it was building a railway through the Rockies or a quantum computer, Canadians know that better is always possible.
As we know, the success of Canada did not happen by accident, and it won’t continue without effort.
Our job now is to advance true equality, and ensure that each and every Canadian has a real and fair chance at success.
We must create the right conditions so that the middle class, and those working hard to join it, can build a good life for themselves.
And we have to work together to combat climate change, one of the greatest crises facing our planet. It’s up to us to leave our kids and grandkids with a better future – through a present in which protecting our environment is an obligation, not an option.
And we can do it. I know we can.
My friends, many of you have come here from great distances. So take a second. Look around. And really take in this moment. You are all a part of history. 150 years? Nah. Look at us: Canada is being born today! And thanks to all of you, it will be again tomorrow.
You know, when we set out in the world, many of us do so with a maple leaf sewn onto our backpacks. But all of us have that maple leaf engraved onto our souls. It’s a subtle, quiet pride in knowing that we are blessed to be citizens of the best country on Earth.
So be proud of our accomplishments. Be proud of our country. For this is Canada. And this is home!