Honourable Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen, Chers Amis,


Underlining the importance of the relationship between education and government, Aristotle once said that:


“All who have meditated on the art of governing humanity have been convinced that the fate of countries depends on the education of youth.”


Et voilà pourquoi je suis très honoré d’être ici avec vous ce soir.


Je vous félicite de votre excellence dans l’enseignement et d’avoir fait le lien évident et essentiel entre l’éducation et la démocratie.


Our parliamentary democracy is imperfect, we know that — because it is a human creation — the product of a long evolution and a difficult struggle. The men and women engaged in this process knew that government by the people, through vigorous, open and enlightened debate and compromise, was the most effective and just way of administering human affairs.


We value our parliamentary system because it offers mechanisms that strive for balance by minimizing inequality, creating opportunity and ensuring stability. And the key part of this equation is education.


Government by the people requires knowledge of history, an understanding of institutions, and an appreciation for the values and laws that underpin our system. In short, it requires a collective memory of where we have been and who we are. As well, it presupposes that knowledge is power and that power is to be used judiciously to liberate us from the constraints of ignorance and fear.


I believe a natural partnership exists between educators and parliamentarians. For only by absorbing, reflecting on and mastering the knowledge and values imparted by teachers, can students answer the call of citizenship, public participations and public service, which are the foundations of democracy.


Moreover, teachers and parliamentarians share responsibility for ensuring that the people in power are held to account. Educators do this by helping young people acquire the knowledge to ask questions.  Parliamentarians do so by studying and debating issues and by questioning governments directly.


Sir Winston Churchill had his tongue tucked in his cheek when he said, “The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter.”  Educators see the potential in every child and believe in their ability to learn, to think, and to contribute.  By sparking the curiosity of students, by imparting learning skills and knowledge, you foster respect for our values and institutions. And in so doing, you help to build a solid bridge to a brighter future – one much more than average — for us all.


I certainly hope that your meetings and deliberations have given you a good overview of how our system works so that you may, in turn, help your students understand how we govern ourselves.  I hope that you convince them that they are an important part of that process and that you put them on the path that will one day bring them here.  We need them to be eager and ready – and educated – so that they can take our place here in Parliament and assume their place in the history of our nation.


Votre travail a une très grande valeur, dans la vie des enfants, et dans la société du Canada, et je vous en remercie.  Les esprits que vous formez aujourd’hui seront les leaders de demain.


I come from a long line of educators.  My mother taught in a one-room school house in rural New Brunswick.  My father was the Principal of a two-room school house.  My wife was a teacher.  Educators are very much a part of who I am and of who I have become.  For that, I am grateful to them, and of course, to all of you, for the vital work you do every day.


Thank you very much.