Farewell Reception For Governor General David Johnston Hosted by Speakers of the Senate and House of Commons

Ottawa, Ontario, Thursday, September 28, 2017

Thank you for your warm welcome and for hosting this farewell reception.

What a privilege to be here with all of you.

My role as governor general is to represent Her Majesty The Queen who, as Canada’s head of State, shares distinct but complementary responsibilities with you as members of the House of Commons and the Senate in ensuring responsible government in this great country.

Together, we comprise Parliament—the highest expression of Canada’s democratic ideals. And we gather here on Parliament Hill, the place where democracy is carried out in the hard work of governing and of loyal opposition.

Parliament serves as the ultimate symbol of our values of equality, fairness and responsible government. It also reminds us that we are all subject to the rule of law, by which I mean the constant, relentless pursuit of justice.

This institution is infinitely precious.

But nobody said parliamentary democracy would be easy.

After all, our system of government was achieved only after great struggle. Canada’s first parliament was destroyed, burned to the ground by an angry mob on April 25, 1849, even as members were sitting in session!

Five days later, when my predecessor Lord Elgin went to meet with Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine and Robert Baldwin—who are immortalized in statue here on the Hill—his carriage was attacked by opponents throwing stones.

Let us never forget how those who came before us struggled for this house to exist.

Time and again throughout world history, we see a heavy price paid for democracy, as new parliaments and legislatures struggle into being and established ones strive to adapt and evolve.

But despite all that is changing so rapidly in our complex, globalized world, the fundamental principle and importance of parliamentary democracy remain as fresh and as vital as ever.

That principle is embedded in the word “parliament” itself, which comes from the Old French parlement, or “speaking.”

Parliament is where we resolve issues through words, rather than force, and that is why your success as parliamentarians is so critical to the smarter, more caring Canada and the fairer, more just world of which we dream.

Serving as governor general for the past seven years has been a constant, stimulating learning experience, and I have seen up close your invaluable contribution to Canada.

I have come into close contact with your work as members of parliament during swearing-in ceremonies; when granting Royal Assent to legislation; and while hosting you at meetings and events at Rideau Hall.

Sharon and I have also seen a number of you in action as members of Canadian delegations we assembled for international visits.

Those international visits in particular were occasions on which we were able to get to know each other. And I saw up close that, despite differences of political persuasion or opinion that are natural and healthy in a democracy, all of you share the desire for a better Canada.

This institution matters, but of course any parliament is only as strong as those who serve in it. Ultimately, individuals are the bedrock of this institution, and that’s why I’m so grateful to all of you for your service and dedication.

Serving as governor general is a responsibility I have cherished and taken very seriously for the past seven years. I am profoundly grateful for the opportunity to give back to this country I love so much.

If Sharon and I have achievements to speak of in working to inspire a smarter, more caring Canada, it’s because of all those who helped along the way, including many of you.

I thank you all for your important service to this country, and for carrying it out in the spirit of respect and inclusivity that is the oxygen of great democracies around the world.

Thank you.