In the early afternoon, Ms. Dowdeswell travelled in a carriage procession from the Royal Ontario Museum to the front entrance of Queen’s Park. A mounted detachment of the Governor General’s Horse Guards escorted Ms. Dowdeswell, who was accompanied by two of her nephews in a landau lent by the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.
Upon their arrival, she was greeted by provincial dignitaries before entering the Legislative Chamber. Following the processional, an Indigenous blessing by Laurie Robinson, and an invocation by the Hon. David MacDonald, Ms. Dowdeswell’s commission of appointment was read in the presence of members of the Executive Council (Cabinet ministers) and the Chief Justice. Ms. Dowdeswell swore and subscribed the required oaths and then took her seat upon the Throne as the 29th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario.
Ms. Dowdeswell and the Premier delivered addresses, as did Senator Victor Oh on behalf of the Prime Minister. A musical program featured the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, directed by Noel Edison, a string quartet from the Royal Conservatory of Music, and vocalist Lauren Woods (Ms. Dowdeswell’s niece).
The Lieutenant Governor then proceeded outdoors for a military ceremony including a guard of honour drawn from the 4th Canadian Division and a 15-gun salute fired by the 7th Toronto Regiment.
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Premier, Chief Justice, Senator, Executive Councillors, Members of Provincial Parliament, First Nations, distinguished guests, family and friends, mes chers amis:
As I begin this remarkable journey, I want to thank each and every one of you for your support and encouragement and for sharing this day with me.
I am grateful to the Governor General and the Prime Minister for entrusting me with the responsibility of serving as the 29th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. I will be sustained by their confidence and by their warm welcomes. I accept the charge of representing Her Majesty The Queen with humility, but without hesitation.
Canada’s particular constitutional framework, our sovereign democracy, has allowed our system of governance to evolve in a peaceful and orderly manner. I have great respect and affection for The Queen, recognizing her dignity, strength and commitment to duty. I pledge loyalty to the traditions of our collective heritage, to acting with impartiality and protecting the integrity of the Crown.
I also recognize that along with the constitutional functions of Lieutenant Governor come unique opportunities to celebrate the achievements, large and small, of the citizens of this province. We have such talented artists, scientists, business people and educators—among the best in the world.
We commemorate the sacrifices of our military and the dedication to duty of those who provide essential services in our communities. And we recognize and encourage a healthy spirit of volunteerism, among young and old alike, that makes our communities more humane and compassionate.
There is yet another role that the Lieutenant Governor plays in our society. We encourage and support practical and tangible initiatives that enable Ontarians to contribute meaningfully to the life of this province.
I take the opportunity today to acknowledge and recognize the selflessness, hard work and dedication of my predecessors.
During the past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to observe their impact first hand, thanks to the generosity of David Onley in providing a space for me in the office at the desk of Ontario’s first female Lieutenant Governor, Pauline McGibbon. Indeed, how could I not be inspired in preparing for my role sitting at that desk, surrounded by the art and artifacts of Ontario’s viceregal history.
The focus of Mrs. McGibbon, and of her successor Hilary Weston, on the rightful place of women and girls in society, their recognition of the importance of culture and the arts in enriching our quality of life are ever present.
I have much to learn from Hal Jackman’s deep interest in our history and the events it behooves us to remember.
I take inspiration from Lincoln Alexander’s unique ability to bond with young people and to rally us all in the struggle against racism, and from Mr. Onley’s profound understanding of what happens when people of all abilities are presented the opportunity to achieve their full potential.
And just this past week, while joining The Countess of Wessex, the Premier, Mrs. Onley and a group of impressive women on a visit to KI First Nation in Northern Ontario, I had the privilege of witnessing firsthand the cementing of lasting relationships with Aboriginal peoples, relationships that were encouraged by the initiatives of Mr. Bartleman and Mr. Onley.
We left KI with some important insights into the challenges the community faces., We heard the knowledge of the Elders and the hopes and dreams of Aboriginal youth as they walk in two worlds. The continuing reconciliation process will take our collective courage.
I also want to recognize and applaud the universal motivations of citizenship expressed so well by our Governors General. We are indeed a “smart and caring” nation.
Be assured that I will continue to nurture the objectives my predecessors held dear.
And on this day of commencement, you deserve to know what I bring to this position, what has shaped my values and vision.
As you may be able to tell from this ceremony—my nephews Kyle and Cole, who accompanied me in the landau, and my niece Lauren, who has sung so beautifully—family comes first.
In 1947, my mother and father had the courage to choose this country, emigrating from Northern Ireland to bring up their children in rural Saskatchewan. They are here with me in spirit.
My parents placed a very high value on education and, although it was unspoken, we always knew our path would be one of continuous learning and ambition. Being a “child of the manse”, the daughter of a teacher and musician, and the eldest of eight siblings, I learned the values of compassion, honesty and respect.
I have also been blessed by an extended family of incomparable friends, role models and mentors, many of whom have travelled from afar to be here with me today.
Place matters—and the Prairies have a very special place in my heart. Saskatchewan taught me the value of strong community and nurtured a social consciousness, solidarity with those in less fortunate situations. It is in the very DNA of the place. It encouraged visions as broad as the endless prairie sky.
And, as my journey has taken me beyond the protective and sheltered existence of small-town Saskatchewan life, I have been able to draw upon a reservoir of strength, humour, common sense and risk-taking that was surely shaped by life on the Prairies.
But, like many Ontarians, although I was born and raised elsewhere, I have chosen to make this province my home. I have lived here for almost half of my life.
I have had the great good fortune to follow diverse paths of possibility on which I continue to learn and grow, seizing moments of opportunity, thanks to an education that included the physical, behavioural and social sciences, as well as the arts. From teaching, through public service at the provincial, federal and international levels, and ultimately to the private sector, each chapter of my story has expanded my horizons and taught me valuable lessons.
This is not the day to elaborate on the specifics of those experiences. Let me simply say that there is no more noble profession than that of the public service. It is something of which I am very proud.
In seeking to engage citizens actively in the public policy matters that impact their lives I came to know more about our country, listening to people in communities large and small, travelling the length and breadth of Canada and into the High Arctic. And certainly my work with the United Nations influenced and shaped my world view. The challenging issues of our time require deep dialogue and systemic thinking.
It was a privilege to see my own country from a distance and to be reminded of how very fortunate we are with our wealth of natural resources, our relative stability and our respect for each other as human beings. Generosity of spirit, tolerance and commitment to social justice must be nurtured.
We generally think of peace as freedom from war. But we are not at peace if there is not enough food to eat; if there is inadequate shelter; if people are sick and cannot get medical care; if they are impoverished and cannot hope to escape poverty’s grip. In these terms, millions of our fellow humans on this planet cannot be said to be at peace.
I believe my personal history will help me to serve Ontarians during my term as Lieutenant Governor.
Canada is approaching its 150th anniversary as a country. Undoubtedly, we will be motivated to reflect on the important and central role that this province has played in the development of the nation. But perhaps we can dare to also think about Ontario in the world. How can Ontarians contribute to and succeed in this changing and interconnected world?
Ontario has it all. This is a place and time of opportunity.
From the sands of Point Pelee to the shores of Hudson Bay and beyond, Ontarians are blessed with an environment of unparalleled, spectacular diversity, rich with life and resources that have sustained generations. We are also home to millions of people from all walks of life and corners of the world, living and working in every kind of community—from small and remote to large and urban.
Thanks to clean air, bountiful water and space to grow, our prospects for sustaining a flourishing society, culturally and economically, are the envy of the world.
We are at the crossroads of migration, attracting an optimism, commitment and dedication that inspire each generation to innovate, to build anew and to enrich the soil and the fabric of Ontario society.
Ontario’s future, like its past, is anchored firmly in the world. And the world is in Ontario. Just look around. One of our greatest strengths is the people that we have drawn from around the globe.
While we have so many gifts, we also have challenges. I would highlight three in particular – and they do not stand alone. They are interrelated.
Our first challenge is to ensure responsible and inclusive prosperity so that everyone has a meaningful opportunity to participate. How do we harness a strong and healthy innovation ecosystem with world-leading knowledge institutions in order to fuel and secure dynamic economic vitality and productivity for all? How do we develop talented, diverse and highly skilled workforces? How do we create opportunities for people, particularly youth, and create jobs that provide dignified work?
To meet this challenge, we must engage more and more with the world: learn about it, live in it, trade in it, work in it, and find new ways of deepening connections between Ontario and the world.
The second and related challenge is the fragility of our planet – our mutual vulnerability. Our citizens understand that a healthy environment is the foundation for life on earth. Ontario is home to some of the world’s best educational institutions, and we are among the most scientifically literate people in the world. Do we have the imagination and determination to set ambitious goals, mobilize our talents, our energies, and our environmental resources in a shared vision of the future.
Finally, there is a third challenge. As we protect our precious natural resources and develop economically, can we ensure social cohesion? We see growing conflict around the world among different religious, ethnic, and national communities exploding into violence. Ontarians draw strength and encouragement from the fact that we have tried to construct a different kind of society: one that welcomes diversity, is interested in the traditions of others, and is based on fairness.
But we cannot afford to become complacent. With changing demographics, increasing poverty, homelessness and mental health issues, we need to reach across divides, get to know each other better, humanize one another and create spaces—both public and private—where we can work and play together. Surely our goal must be to live with dignity in just and sustainable communities.
We stand at an interesting moment in history. The world’s most important problems are Ontario’s most fundamental challenges. Ontario and the world are mirror images of one another: to succeed at home, we must contribute to the world, and to contribute to the world, we must succeed at home. Each one enables the other.
I know that it has become traditional for incoming Lieutenant Governors to declare during their investiture the themes that will be their priorities. I offer a slightly different approach.
I want to start by listening. In the first months of my mandate, I will convene diverse groups of Ontarians to hear your ideas about Ontario’s place in the world—to deepen our understanding about the connections. What can we contribute and what we can learn from each other to meet the global and local challenges we face in common?
The aim will be to provide a forum for reflection in the Lieutenant Governor’s office, a safe space and a crucible for ideas. And in time priority themes will emerge.
To achieve an Ontario that works for everyone will require uncommon dedication, creativity and energy. I invite Ontarians to join me in this exciting, challenging journey into our shared future.
Thank you. Merci. Miigwech.