The Honourable Anita Neville, P.C., O.M.
Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba
Monday, October 24 2022
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The Honourable Janice Filmon, the Honourable Gary Filmon, Madame Premier, Chief Justice Chartier, members of the Judiciary, elected officials, friends and fellow Manitobans – it is an honour to join you here in the heart of Treaty One territory and the homeland of the Red River Metis as Manitoba’s 26th Lieutenant Governor.
Here in the home of the Anishinaabe, Cree, Dakota, Dene and Metis peoples, I join all Manitobans in working toward reconciliation and harmony among all the people who share this beautiful province.
I stand here today with both humility and anticipation as I join the group of exceptional individuals who have come before me. My immediate predecessor, the Honourable Janice Filmon, has served this province with dignity and warmth as she has promoted leadership in all its manifestations throughout the province. Her graciousness, kindness, and thoughtfulness to me during this period of transition is much appreciated.
Manitobans all have benefitted by the efforts of the Honourable Philip Lee, the Honourable Yvon Dumont and the Honourable Pearl McGonigal, all of whom are here today, as well the late John Harvard and the late Peter Liba. Each has made a major contribution to this province and indeed left an indelible mark on our community. I hope I can continue in the tradition of service that those before me have modelled.
I want to welcome all who have gathered here today. My daughters Sarah, Elissa and Jessica are here with their husbands and children, as well as my brother and his family. I am particularly pleased that my very beloved grandchildren are all here. Friends have come from near and far…very far in some cases. I am beyond grateful and very honoured that you chose to be here today.
A very special thank you to Elder Myra Laramee who has truly honoured me by her presence today. Thank you to drummer Sarah Delaronde for participating in this ceremony. Tracy Dahl – words cannot express my delight and joy that you are here. The Women of Note Choir, thank you – you made the day special, and Rabbi Mass, your presence here today is important to both me and our community.
I also want to take the opportunity to thank the staff of the protocol office, the Premier’s office and the Lieutenant Governor’s office of Manitoba, the Privy Council, and the Department of Heritage who have had to work very hard in a very short time frame to make this day happen.
Allow me a moment of personal reflection on the path that led me here today.
Until recently, I did not know that Government House was on my horizon. As a young Jewish girl growing up in Winnipeg in the 40’s it is not a path I would ever have foreseen. Indeed, the journey that brought me to this place, on this day, in this role, did not start with my birth in Winnipeg.
It started more than a century ago, when my grandparents fled Bessarabia – in present-day Moldova – and Odessa – then part of Czarist Russia, today in Ukraine – to escape a climate of murderous anti-Semitism and to find freedom and opportunity.
My paternal grandfather arrived in Canada as a teenage boy. His father worked in the coal mines of Wales to raise funds to bring his family to Canada. My maternal grandparents at age 19 and 20 began their journey from Odessa, expecting a child. My mother was born in Germany en route to Canada.
Life for my immigrant grandparents had many challenges. It was characterized by sacrifice, uncertainty and hard work, a fight for survival, driven by the prospect of a better life for future generations. As I stand here today, this legacy is not lost on me and is one I hope and intend to honour with my service.
The story of survival is one shared by many Canadians – stories of immigrants like my grandparents, facing the homesickness of generations forever separated from parents, friends, neighbours, the surroundings of their youth. It’s an old story, yet one that newly informs and animates our collective consciousness. But at the heart of these stories of resilience are the stories of Indigenous peoples – forced from their home in their own country, robbed of their language, forbidden from practicing their culture or educating their children, denied the right to speak against these actions.
And as we saw with the arrival of thousands of Ukrainian, Syrian, Afghan and Yazidi refugees in the past few years, it is also a story of new beginnings, and new beginnings are seldom easy. Indeed, my own family’s stories are the stories of many gathered here today.
These tales of hope and heartbreak, tragedy and joy are all stories of resilience, of healing, of community.
This brings me to the central tenets of my faith: the concepts of Tzedakah and Tikkun olam – to make the world a fair and just place through acts of charity and kindness, to repair the world.
Throughout my life, I have tried to live by these principles. Social responsibility and community service, important for a new community in a new country, was imprinted in my consciousness at an early age.
I recall as a small girl walking along Main Street and Selkirk Avenue holding my Zaida’s – my grandfather’s – hand on our way to the Nicolaiew aid and free loan society. Here, alongside this gentle man, we would visit with other Russian immigrants, sharing information about job opportunities, housing and all manner of practical concerns for newcomers. Each visit was followed by a visit with those he knew at what was euphemistically called “the old folks home”. I’d listen to Zaida chat with those who weren’t well, drinking tea, sharing stories, Zaida sometimes rolling cigarettes for those whose fingers were no longer nimble.
Social responsibility – the obligation to watch out and care for our neighbours, was not only important for a new community, in a new country, it was essential.
Years later, I have found myself in other neighbourhoods, with other community agencies—Rossbrook House, Core Area Employment and Training program, Welcome Place, Operation Ezra, and Jewish Child and Family Service, where strangers become friends, where neighbours become family, where small kindnesses foster healing.
This is the Manitoba that I know. A land of open skies, powerful rivers, and the rugged Canadian Shield, it is the people of this great Province that are its bedrock, that shape its landscape. In a time that has been fraught with uncertainty; where war, pandemic, and hate rages; where lives have been and continue to be lost, I know that our Manitoba community of communities will continue to come together, to build a strong province for all our children. Through small acts of kindness, through openness and exploration, and through learning about the lived experience of others, we will continue to work together to repair our small corner of the world.
As one of Manitoba’s most celebrated authors, whom I have referenced often, Margaret Laurence once wrote “If this were indeed my final hour, I would not claim to pass on any secret of life, for there is none, or any wisdom except the passionate plea of caring … Try to feel, in your heart’s core, the reality of others. This is the most painful thing in the world, probably, and the most necessary”.
Ce sera pour moi un privilège de participer à cet effort de réparation au cours des prochaines années, et d’offrir une continuité et de la stabilité en période de changements.
(It is my privilege for the coming years to be a part of that effort of repair, and of ensuring continuity and stability in the midst of change.)
As Lieutenant Governor, I will be the representative in our province of His Majesty the King, and what greater example of continuity amid change is there than in that phrase.
For three generations or more, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth provided Canadians with a sense of permanence: a personification of the nation and of governance that was unchanging and above the cut and thrust of politics. She provided consistency and grace in an ever-changing political landscape both in Canada and abroad.
Now, as we get used to saying the phrase “His Majesty the King,” we are reminded that to live is to be in flux. At the same time as we look to the future, we are reminded of the continuity of Canada’s connection to a tradition of governance and the rights of the people that has and will continue to evolve.
I believe that more than anything else, continuity and growth will depend on our collective efforts at reconciliation, on breathing new meaning into what is fast becoming a familiar word. As we work through this difficult process, and indeed, the struggle to build a more equitable, and safer world for all, we will make missteps. However, mindful of the unique and complex relationship between Indigenous people and the Crown, I know that discomfort and our own imperfections cannot derail our efforts.
The late Thomas Molloy – former Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan, said in his installation speech, “Reconciliation will not be easy but it is critical to the future of our country. It requires from each of us a willingness to operate outside of our comfort zone and to make a concerted effort toward relationship building.”
I’d be remiss not to note the importance of the leadership of many Manitoba women, who have broken barriers from the inception of the province to this day. Women continue to provide leadership…
- as we seek justice for the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls —two of the leaders of this pursuit are members of this Assembly,
- as we speak out for the rights of the women of Afghanistan, Iran and elsewhere in the world,
- as we speak out for the rights of gender diverse people,
- as we speak out against gender based violence, and highlight the import of women’s reproductive rights.
La communauté franco-manitobaine fait partie intégrante de ce qui fait la richesse du tissu de cette province. L’histoire, la langue, l’art, la culture et la nourriture : il y a tant de choses à reconnaître et à célébrer.
(The Franco Manitoban community has been integral to the richness of the fabric of this province. History, language, arts, culture and food – there is much to acknowledge and celebrate.)
With much of my early career dedicated to education, I know that lifelong learning—in the many forms it takes—is and will be central to our efforts at reconciliation, healing, and growth. To that end, I intend to focus on education as a central theme of my tenure.
In the words of the Honourable Murray Sinclair;
“Education is the key to reconciliation. Education got us into this mess, and education will get us out of it.”
Finally, as many of you know, I was very much involved in the service of politics at one time in my life, but as Lieutenant Governor it will be my duty to represent the idea of a province and a people that is beyond politics – to speak for and celebrate those things that unite us regardless of who is serving in elected office.
Recognizing that the boundaries of the province extend far beyond the perimeter of Winnipeg, in the years to come, I’ll join Manitobans in celebrating the remarkable accomplishments of the people of this province. I’ll salute the powerful sense of community that brings Manitobans together.
I do not intend to be prescriptive. I hope to consult with those more knowledgeable than me to help chart a path forward. With the unique opportunity afforded by the office of the Lieutenant Governor, I hope to create pathways and forums for exchanges of ideas and learning of all kinds.
For me personally, this will be a time of discovery as I meet Manitobans from all regions and walks of life and celebrate long, evolving relationship between citizen and nation.
And I look forward to rediscovering a truth expressed nearly a century ago by the poet T.S. Eliot:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
I welcome the opportunity to know Manitoba, again.
Thank you, Merci, Meegwich.