3 July 2010
CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY Thank you, Mr. Murray. Your Majesty, Your Royal Highness, Ministers Moore and Fletcher, Premier Selinger and Minister Robinson, Mayor Katz, Chief Fontaine, Mr.Thorsteinson, Ms Asper, members of the Asper family, members of the board, and friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Ladies and gentlemen, the unveiling of any cornerstone is an occasion rich in meaning. But what we do here today is of the highest significance. In the presence of our Sovereign, and at this meeting place of ancient origin, we honour the inherent, inviolable dignity of the human person, and of every human being. And in so doing we affirm the source and guarantee of our freedom as Canadians. It is a happy coincidence that this year we mark the fiftieth anniversary of Prime Minister John Diefenbaker’s landmark Canadian Bill of Rights. The text of that landmark document contains an important insight. It reads: ‘it is hereby recognized and declared that in Canada there have existed and shall continue to exist without discrimination by reason of race, national origin, colour, religion or sex, the following human rights and fundamental freedoms.’ ’There have existed and shall continue to exist’ – in this simple phrase Parliament acknowledged that we are heirs to a tradition of freedom, and stewards of a precious legacy centuries in the making. It understood that legacy, not as a gift bestowed by government legislation, but as the birthright of every individual. The Canadian Bill of Rights reflects a fundamental truth: that human rights, by definition, must be universal. There can be no exceptions. The test of a free country is whether it recognizes this truth. Whether it is a country with a conscience. A country where individuals are not categorized by power or prejudice, but simply recognized as our fellow human beings. And where failures to do so are eventually brought to light. Canada is such a country. There have been dark chapters in our history. But they have been eventually recognized as such, precisely because they contradicted our most deeply held beliefs. And Canada’s conscience has shone light not only where needed in our own history; it has made our country a beacon, a force for good in a troubled world. A country which has fought for freedom not for power or conquest, but out of loyalty and conviction. Canada’s conscience has been formed by a profound belief in human rights, and this living tradition of freedom. It has made us a good country. It makes us seek always to be a better country. And it makes us a people of hope. Today we celebrate a vision of hope that has become Canada’s first national museum outside the National Capital Region. That vision, conceived by the late Israel Asper, and animated by his daughter Gail and the Asper family, has been supported by Canadians from coast to coast to coast. The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is a testament to the power of individual initiative in service of the common good. The cornerstone about to be unveiled contains a stone from Runnymede, where the Magna Carta was signed. It will remind all who visit here that Canada is heir to a tradition of freedom upheld by the law, under the Crown, reaching back almost 800 years. And this cornerstone will be unveiled by our Monarch who embodies the traditions and the laws on which our freedom depends. I now ask Your Majesty to unveil the cornerstone of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, which is dedicated to that most noble purpose.