Author: David Johnston
Source: Huff Post Politics
What ovation, you ask? I’m referring to the one given just over a month ago in Ottawa, Canada to Sweden native and former Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, whose No. 11 jersey was recently retired by the team. Thousands attended the ceremony, and thousands cheered loudly.
It was an emotional moment for the Alfredsson family and for the people of Ottawa, who have adopted ‘Alfie’ as one of their own. Both on and off the ice he has given so much to the community and to Canada, and we were very proud to welcome him as a Canadian citizen last year.
Why do I share this story? For several reasons. One, because Daniel Alfredsson is back in Sweden this week as a delegate on our Canadian State visit.
As Canada’s 28th Governor General, I often travel abroad and represent our country on behalf of Canadians, and that’s what we’re doing this week in Stockholm, Malmö, Lund and Gothenburg. Our visit themes are inclusiveness, innovation and sustainability.
Governor General David Johnston and Daniel Alfredsson put on their skates to enjoy the outdoor skating rink at Kungsträdgarden in Stockholm. (Photo: David Johnston)
The second reason I mention Daniel Alfredsson is because, as a Swedish-Canadian citizen, he’s part of a long line of what we sometimes call ‘hyphenated Canadians’. In fact, our delegation to Sweden is comprised of Canadians who have backgrounds from all over the world.
Ms. Alia Hogben of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women was born in Myanmar and is of Indian Muslim descent. Mr. Naheed Nenshi is the mayor of Calgary, which makes him the first Muslim mayor of a large North American city. I myself am proud to have Scottish roots, and to call myself Canadian.
Immigration is a basic fact of Canada, as old as the country itself. Indigenous peoples were the first inhabitants of our land, followed by generations of newcomers who came in search of peace and prosperity. This continues to the present day with the arrival of immigrants and refugees from around the world.
Newcomers are a source of strength for Canada. Everything in our history shows this to be the case. Diversity is a source of insight, ideas and energy that deepens our ability to solve problems and to engage with the world.
This is not to say our commitment to diversity and multiculturalism is easy. As the appalling attack on a mosque in Québec City earlier this month showed, Canada is not immune to racism, hatred and violence. Our response must be to strongly condemn hatred and violence and to reaffirm our commitment to diversity, tolerance and inclusiveness.
The importance of inclusiveness cannot be overstated. It’s the glue that holds us together, and only when all members of a society share equally in opportunity and prosperity can we say we have achieved it. So how do we get there? Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. As our country has evolved, we have tried to build an inclusive society through legislation designed to combat discrimination and empower all Canadians to fully participate. In 1971, Canada was the first country to adopt a multiculturalism policy. In 1988, this vision became law through the Canadian Multiculturalism Act. The Canadian Human Rights Act, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Employment Equity Act are other laws which underpin inclusiveness.
Such measures have helped us build a successful society and a remarkably broad consensus as to the merits of multiculturalism. They have helped to create an environment in which, for example, thousands of Canadians volunteered to help resettle tens of thousands of Syrian refugees through the Private Sponsorship of Refugees program.
We need to go further. We must keep pace with our rapidly-changing context, which is one of the reasons we had discussion on diversity and inclusion at the University of Malmö during our visit. For generations, Sweden has inspired people around the world with its commitment to building a diverse, peaceful and welcoming society. And today, the city of Malmö is playing a central role in this effort. We have so much to learn from each other.
I’m a believer in this kind of collaboration, and this State visit to Sweden is a wonderful opportunity for like-minded countries to share ideas and best practices on inclusiveness, innovation and sustainability.
Great nations are built on great challenges.