pc, cm, obc
of British Columbia
Retired Heads of Mission Association’s Gala Dinner
Royal Roads University, Hatley Castle
President, M. Faguy et Mme Faguy, Mr. Douglas and Ms. Helen Small, Founding President Mr. Nutt, distinguished members of RHOMA and honoured guests:
I am happy to join you this evening at historic Hatley Castle for your Gala Association Dinner. It is also a pleasure to welcome those of you who are visiting from other parts of the country to this historic site with its significant gardens and history. Sir James Dunsmuir’s Castle has a small although legitimate claim to attention of Canada’s Foreign Service, where so many of you present here this evening spent years of responsibility and in the opinion of most Canadians years of ‘reliability’ in their service.
In 1940 the government of Canada purchased this castle and property outright from the Dunsmuir Estate for the use of British Royal Family should they wish to spend the war years away from the devastation of the Blitz in London. Memorably the Queen Mother stated at the time, “The children will not go without me and I will not go without the King and the King will never go!” So ended the potential for the City of Victoria to host truly Royal residents and although Hatley Castle remained on Canadian Government real estate lists for the next half century, no Royal has yet to my knowledge ever been lodged here. That is the prerogative of Government House, the Ceremonial Home of British Columbians since 1865, located in Victoria. Suffice to say a ‘truly Royal Welcome’ always awaits Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen of Canada when ever she comes to this city named for her grandmother, as she has done many time over the years since her first visit here in 1959.
As most of you are aware, Royal Roads served for many years as one of Canada’s three military education institutions, along with Kingston and Lac St. Jean, of which of course only The Royal Military College at Kingston survives today. Here, since 1996 Royal Roads University has been in the process of gradually assuming its place in the highly competitive world of business education across the country. If these wall could speak, in the voices of young recruits and the more mature voices of officers in training who studied here, perhaps they would be filled with word of concern for Canada’s role in the ever-changing and challenging world of international affairs in which each of you has played your part.
I had the pleasure of working with USSEA H. Basil Robinson in the mid 1970’s when he was Deputy Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs and I have fond remembrances of his advice, when later I was in the Government of late Pierre Elliott Trudeau, as Canada’s first Sport Minister and was tasked with a number of roles related to sport, primarily in then-east bloc countries and opposing the Apartheid policies of South Africa and arranging numerous Cuban exchanges.
Any listing of Canada’s Foreign Affairs Deputies still reads like a roll-call of legends with such luminaries as Jules Leger, Marcel Cadieux and Lester Pearson and so many others of great distinction, it is a high calling that continues right through to Peter Harder today. Deputy Ministers of nearly similar standing include titans like Jake Warren and Sylvia Ostry and of course the late Mitchell Sharp who so recently went on into his final ‘retirement’ after becoming a much valued and life-long advisor to a succession of at least six Prime Ministers!
Canada has enjoyed a long reputation for excellence in International Affairs, predicated on a professional foreign service of which we are all very proud. But our international profile is also in part based on the intensive diversity of the composition of our citizens. On this coast members of the human family have lived in coves and inlets, along rivers and lakes since time immemorial. What is significant about their lives is how very different they all were from each other, with differing spiritual beliefs, cultures and host of languages of which approximately 20 remain today. To this was added every bloodline, faith and culture of the whole world to create the pluralistic society that is today’s Canada!
Ancient and new at the same time, this is a country that boasts the blood of the whole world in its veins! That often-unremembered fact has assisted this country to some of its most significant world roles and in my view is relevant to our considerable international success. Canada’s role in peacekeeping and as the ever-reliable partner in NATO, Norad and the United Nations, is a record that few if any other countries that can claim. It is a fact that has given us all the kind of quiet influence for which this country is admired in most corners of the world. I have seen Canadian ‘Sherpas” repeatedly called upon to exercise our near-legendary capacity to create shared solutions to complex issues and I am relieved to see that collaborative decision making is now being taught in our universities. We have very good reason to celebrate our unequalled capacity to facilitate collaborative decision-making.
Today’s foreign service is as much changed, as is every other institution in our society, however, primarily as a consequence of the ‘sea change’ in attitude that accompanied the acts of terror of September 2001. The challenges before us may have changed, but in my opinion while most Canadians recognize that North American security is indivisible they are palpably concerned that with living beside a more populous neighbour as we do, that Canadian sovereignty may be relinquished in exchange for security.
As the second largest land mass nation in the world with three ocean coasts to sustain, (and with the Arctic becoming more navigable due to climate change each year), Canada quite naturally takes a very great interest in how its security will be maintained and in what legal form any new legal arrangements be undertaken. Securing a balance between how to sustain an open society within a more effective security system is a prime issue for consideration by every citizen. I know that you don’t expect a Lieutenant Governor to comment on the substance of foreign policy, but there is comfort in knowing that our country is blessed with the kind of expertise that is vested in this room. Your association and your membership, although removed from daily intrigue are still capable of exercising the same cool judgment that earned you all your good reputation and like me, you may not have power, but you do have considerable influence which I urge you to use!
This paradise of Victoria is a favoured retreat for Retired Heads of Mission, but playing golf 12 months a year is not a substitute for playing on the world stage, even if the role you choose is advisory rather than direct. As Representative of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen of Canada, it is my delight to thank you for your years of devotion to Canada and to assure you that not only is there life after 65, in my experience it is a superior time of action!