Halifax, Nova Scotia, Saturday, May 13, 2017
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“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
To talk of many things:
Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax—
Of cabbages—and kings—
And why the sea is boiling hot—
And whether pigs have wings.”
Thank you all for allowing me to unleash my inner Lewis Carroll.
It’s not an everyday occurrence!
Lewis Carroll was of course an extraordinarily creative, bold and imaginative writer. His best-known works encourage us to look at the world anew and with wonder. He wants us to see more deeply, to avoid complacency and to give ourselves permission to dream—and that’s what these Walrus Talks are all about.
Thirteen talks in thirteen weeks, held in each of the thirteen provinces and territories in this, Canada’s 150th birthday year.
We desire a better country. That’s the theme of these talks and it’s why we’re here today at historic Pier 21 in Halifax. It’s also a twist on the motto of the Order of Canada, which is marking its 50th anniversary this year.
We’re celebrating by partnering for these talks with the Walrus Foundation. It has been wonderful to watch this collaboration take flight.
The talks to date have been a great success. Here on the east coast, in St. John’s, Charlottetown and Fredericton, we’ve heard some insightful and provocative ideas on education, political engagement, reconciliation, arts and culture, the environment and human rights, to name a few.
We’ve heard from Order of Canada members and young leaders, who together have shared some timely proposals for our future. I’m delighted that the talks have been forward-looking rather than merely self-congratulatory or retrospective in their orientation.
This is so important, because even though it’s Canada’s sesquicentennial year we must not be complacent.
The event in Charlottetown even included a special citizenship ceremony, in which new Canadians from more than a dozen countries took the oath of citizenship.
This means their very first act as new citizens was to attend the talks that evening.
This is in fact very appropriate—very Canadian, we might say. Why? Because our achievements in communications have long been at the heart of what knits this country together.
Think of the physical lines of communications—first by canoe, later by steamship and the railway—that were so vital in connecting us geographically during Canada’s formative years.
And then, in the 20th century, we developed new ways of coming together: the first transatlantic wireless transmission from Signal Hill, Newfoundland, in 1901, followed by the telegram, the telephone, radio and television.
And today—in the digital age—Canadians are again playing a prominent role in the technology of communication, and creating content that’s carried on new kinds of waves.
In many ways, communication—talking—is the essence of Canada, the key to the success of our sprawling, diverse federation.
As the writer B.W. Powe observed:
“Through the committees and meetings that first established the Canadian map in 1867, through the language controversies and crises of unity, the public debates and referenda that have characterized Confederation, we can pick up, and discern, this story developing: dynamic communication.”
Dynamic communication. If it sounds like a lot of talk, it is, and that’s precisely why our society, despite challenges, is in many ways the envy of the world. We have chosen to talk things over—over and over again.
Surely, there is no better way to build the country, and the world, we desire.
One thing is certain: our future success will be rooted in the strength we derive from our diversity. And to understand that strength, we must listen to each other carefully, share ideas and dreams, and seek common ground.
We must constantly, relentlessly communicate.
As we have seen, good things will follow, like this evening’s talks, which I very much look forward to hearing.