OTTAWA — Canada’s new Governor General opened his term Friday challenging Canadians to join him in a stepped up journey to engage in the joys of family, learning and volunteering.
David Johnston made his impassioned appeal after being sworn in Friday as the Queen’s representative in Canada, the climax of a ceremony on a flag-festooned Parliament Hill celebrating the passing of the Governor General’s torch to the athletic northern Ontario native and lifelong teacher from Michaelle Jean, a Haitian refugee who wears her passion for her adopted country on her sleeve.
Before he began his speech, he shared an enthusiastic embrace and kiss with his wife, Sharon, the woman he described as he opened his remarks as his "inspiration" and the "wind beneath my feat" through 46 years of marriage.
"We are a smart and caring nation," Johnston told a packed Senate chamber in his inaugural address as the country’s 28th Governor General.
Looking ahead to the 150th birthday of Canada, Johnston said he looked forward to hearing the stories of all Canadians and newcomers from all backgrounds as he and his wife travel the country.
In particular, he said he wants to hear about the Canada they envision in 2017.
The chamber audience was a veritable who’s who of the Canadian establishment, among them the red-robed justices of the Supreme Court of Canada, such past prime ministers and Joe Clark, aboriginal leaders and members of the federal cabinet.
Johnston spoke just minutes after swearing his oath of office.
"I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the second, Queen of Canada, her heir and successors," Johnston vowed in the first of three oaths an incoming viceregal must pledge.
"I will in all things to be treated debated and resolved in Privy Council, faithfully, honestly and truly declare my mind and my opinion."
A beaming Johnston and his wife arrived on Parliament Hill mid-morning, setting off a two-hour celebration that included trumpet fanfares, a 21-gun salute, a children’s choir’s sweet-voiced rendition of the national anthem, prayer and the singing of Ties That Bind" by blind singer Terry Kelly.
The couple was greeted by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife Laureen and a military honour guard before passing through the "Hall of Honour" where 13 Canadians, representing each province and territory, handed each of them a rose to be placed later at the foot of the nearby National War Memorial.
Harper had earlier embraced Johnston as having an "all-Canadian heart," telling the chamber that the former hockey hero and passionate teacher who believes that service is not only an option, but an "obligation of the heart that honour compels a man to accept."
Jean, accompanied by her husband, attended the event as a private citizen and, for the first time in five years, had no official duties to perform. As per tradition, the job fell to deputy governor general Beverley McLachlin, Canada’s chief justice, for the duration of the transition.
Dubbed "The Smart and Caring Nation: A Call to Service," the ceremony was designed to reflect Johnston’s commitment to children and family life, learning and education and philanthropy and volunteerism.
Johnston, who spent the last 11 years as president of the University of Waterloo, has been described as a devoted father of five accomplished daughters and seven grandchildren.
A gifted fundraiser who was able to draw support from all levels of government and the private sector during his tenure at Waterloo, he helped transform the university and the region into Canada’s high-tech hub.
He has travelled extensively, using his charm and knowledge of other cultures to build partnerships with institutions in such places as China, India, Italy and the United Arab Emirates — honing diplomatic skills that should prove useful when he represents Canada abroad.
Before Waterloo, he served as principal and vice-chancellor at McGill University in Montreal, dean of law at the University of Western Ontario and was a professor at both the University of Toronto and Queen’s University in Kingston.
Johnston boasts 13 honorary degrees, has written or contributed to dozens of books, articles and conference papers, has published government reports on everything from the Mulroney-Schreiber affair to broadband Internet and has helped write legislation.
He’s moderated both federal and provincial election debates and even hosted two 1990s-era public affairs television shows.
While the Harvard graduate specialized in securities law, it’s been said that he understands constitutional issues due to his involvement in Quebec politics and work on various government reports and should have little trouble if faced with constitutional questions.
Extremely active at 69, the two-time captain of Harvard’s varsity hockey team still runs, cycles and skis regularly.
He’s also been described as a man who "changes clothes easily" and is as relaxed around a boardroom table or executing ceremonial duties at convocation as he is helping his Mennonite neighbours gather hay or pile manure at Chatterbox Farm, the home and horse training facility just outside Waterloo that he and his wife own.
Deeply committed to public service, Johnston traded his nearly $500,000 university president salary and his spot on four company boards of directors and five not-for-profits to serve Canada. The non-taxable viceregal’s salary is pegged at just under $130,000 a year.
"This is one more service to his nation," said University of Western Ontario president Amit Chakma, a friend and former colleague at Waterloo.
"I cannot think of a better person to represent Canada."© Copyright (c) Postmedia News
David Johnston is now Canada’s 28th Governor GeneralIn Canada on October 1, 2010 at 13:15