Archived - Notes for an address at the Canada Day Celebrations in Hatley
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Hatley, July 1, 2010
Graham Fraser - Commissioner of Official Languages
Check against delivery
Beginning of dialog
It is a great pleasure and honour to be here. The Hatley July 1st Parade was an important event in my childhood, and I am thrilled to be able to take part in it this year. This is an important place for me and my family; my father had his first job in Stanstead, I spent my childhood summers in North Hatley and I have been coming back for the last 25 years with my children and grandchildren.
For me, the Hatley parade represents the steadfastness, the constancy and the – well, why not – the modesty of Canadian patriotism. There are other festivities – in Ottawa, for example, where the Queen is today – but bigger isn’t necessarily better when it comes to commitment to this country’s values.
As Commissioner of Official Languages, I am an officer of Parliament. That means I am responsible for ensuring compliance with the Official Languages Act, which embodies the linguistic duality that is one of our Canadian values. Every officer of Parliament is responsible for protecting a value that transcends partisan debate, whether it be the integrity of public spending, the integrity of elections, privacy, transparency or linguistic duality.
The theme of your parade is Canadian Icons. In the spirit of linguistic duality and official languages, I would like to suggest some additional icons that you probably had not thought of when you considered the theme.
Even today, many people still talk and write about Louis-Joseph Papineau, one of the rebel leaders of 1837, and Lord Durham, the British aristocrat who decided that the solution to the conflict was the assimilation of French Canadians. But you rarely hear about Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine and Robert Baldwin, the reformers who created Canadian democracy only ten years later, and Lord Elgin, the governor general who re-introduced French into the legislature.
Alexander Galt is not just the name of a high school. Galt played an important role in the founding of Canada. When he was asked to form a government, he declined and proposed John A. Macdonald and George-Étienne Cartier instead. In 1858, he proposed the motion that sparked the debates and negotiations that led to Confederation.
Two men who spent a great deal of time in this area have shaped our perception of linguistic duality: Hugh MacLennan, author of the novel Two Solitudes, and Frank Scott, champion for freedom of expression and the notion of language rights as human rights.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the contributions made by Prime Ministers Lester B. Pearson and Pierre Trudeau to the idea of Canadian linguistic duality. But I would suggest that Conservative leaders Robert Stanfield and Brian Mulroney also played a role by ensuring that linguistic duality became a value transcending partisan debate.
Another major figure comes to mind, and this name may surprise some of you and shock others. René Lévesque would no doubt feel uncomfortable being identified as a major Canadian figure. But he merits mention for two reasons. First, he resisted immense pressure from his own movement and party to abolish the minority English school system. He could have done it, believe me. After all, that’s what the English-speaking provinces did with minority French schools before the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was there to protect them. Second, Lévesque was more committed to democracy than to Quebec sovereignty. And this commitment remained strong throughout his career.
I have a final icon to mention. I have spent many more Canada Days beside a lake than I have at celebrations—and I have never felt unpatriotic in doing so. Our land, Canada itself, is an icon.
On July 1, 1967—Canada’s Centenary—my father spoke at the Unitarian Church in Montréal. He ended his remarks with a comment on the importance—for all Canadians—of our land, our environment, and the proximity of the wild.
He said: “We have accessible to us something that until the day before yesterday was accessible to man almost anywhere—the cleansing experience of solitude, the temporary disappearance, or at any rate the illusion of disappearance, of those barriers that man has contrived to place between himself and reality.”
He was speaking at a time when there was more concern about those who chose to leave Canada to move to the United States than about those from the rest of the world who chose to come to Canada. He went on to say that it is those who respond to Canada’s wilderness and to what he called “the avenue of escape to solitude” who could be expected to be the ones who choose to stay, and love this country.
“In that expectation lies hope,” he said. “We all, I’m sure, have many hopes for Canada on this Centennial day—that she may grow, thrive, prosper in all things. To these I would add one hope more: that Canada will not so greatly grow, and not so grossly thrive, as to destroy this heritage of solitude which makes us what we are and which our children will know perhaps better than we how to value.”
To this hope, which my father expressed so eloquently 43 years ago, I would add another: that we may all learn to better understand each other, and value our linguistic duality and our official-language communities.
The parade here in Hatley is inclusive and open-minded—Canada at its best. It is a manifestation of the linguistic duality of this municipality, this region and this country.
Long live Canada! Vive le Canada!