The Honourable George J. Furey, Q.C.
Speaker of the Senate
Welcoming remarks to participants of the Teachers’ Institute on Canadian Parliamentary Democracy
It is my pleasure to welcome you all to the Senate of Canada this morning and to you welcome to the Teachers Institute on Canadian Parliamentary Democracy.
I would like to take a moment to recognize the exceptional work of the Library of Parliament, which year after year rises to the challenge of organizing this Forum, and quite brilliantly, I might add.
I would also like to thank the Canadian Association of Former Parliamentarians, which offers bursaries to participants in the Forum, as well as the Supreme Court of Canada, Elections Canada and Rideau Hall, which all contribute to the Forum and the educational material that you have been provided with for this week.
As a former teacher, I can tell you that I understand both your passion for teaching…and the constant challenges that you face. I also know from personal experience that it is important for our educators to have access to tools and practical experiences…like the ones offered by the Forum.
Parliamentary democracy can seem intangible and inaccessible to young people…and one of the goals of the Forum is to provide you with tools to help you go beyond notions and concepts…and instil in your students the desire to participate in the democratic process as citizens by contributing to the understanding that parliamentary democracy is everyone’s concern.
Here in Parliament, parliamentary democracy is the daily reality for men and women from all walks of life who are working to build an egalitarian and progressive society, and for whom Canadians’ future and well-being are at the heart of the causes they champion.
Parliamentary democracy is also a set of procedures and mechanisms. This framework may appear cumbersome at first sight, but in fact it facilitates the work of parliamentarians and ensures that each can be heard in an orderly and respectful atmosphere.
As Speaker of the Senate, I act as the presiding officer of this institution, and as such, I am responsible for preserving order and decorum in the Chamber. I also play a diplomatic role in receiving heads of State or government who are visiting Canada…and I also regularly communicate with foreign diplomats in Canada in order to strengthen our bilateral ties.
A very busy week awaits you and I look forward to Wednesday evening for the traditional dinner with parliamentarians. Not only will you have an opportunity to meet informally with parliamentarians from your regions, but we will also have the honour and privilege to welcome Ms. Jean Augustine as keynote speaker.
A teacher and school principal, Ms. Augustine was the first female African-Canadian member of Parliament and Cabinet minister, as well as the first Fairness Commissioner appointed by the Government of Ontario. In fact, it is thanks…in large part…to her efforts that since 1995, February has been designated Black History Month.
In closing, allow me to wish you an informative, productive and creative Forum, as well as an enjoyable visit to our nation’s capital.