As Gov. Gen. David Johnston readies to hand over the keys to Rideau Hall to his successor, he sat down with the CBC’s Heather Hiscox to reflect on his years as the Queen’s representative in Canada.
From the sombre moments that required his steady hand, such as the Quebec mosque attack or the Parliament Hill shooting, to the warmer times when he and his wife, Sharon, shared moments with the Queen, Johnston says holding the office has been a joy overall.
But he feels Canada remains a work in progress, where our efforts to build a diverse and more just country, one that treats Indigenous people equitably, remains everyone’s task.
Where is Canada falling short as a country?
I worry about complacency.… We’ve been blessed, our environment from time to time can be challenging, but we’ve learned how to live with it. But I worry if we take those things for granted, if we don’t work hard enough to identify the gaps and be smart and caring, and systematically get at them … if we become insular with regard to our respect for the rest of the world, we have global challenges where Canada has important answers.… Canada is a social innovation, an experiment that diversity and inclusiveness can be good things and make for a strong society, but you have to work at them constantly, always be raising the level of civilization, civilized life.
During your term, Canada saw things that were anything but caring, the mosque attack, the Parliament Hill attack, how concerned are you about that?
We are inclusive, we are a tolerant people, we believe in rule of law and we believe in equality of opportunity for all our people, and very often those kinds of hostile and hatred manifestations come from circumstances where those opportunities are not as present as they should be. When you look at the globe at large, there are more conflicts than we ever want to have going on. We have 65 million displaced persons around the world today, that’s more than we’ve had since just after the Second World War, so, there are plenty of things to occupy our minds about trouble, and I think it’s important for all of us living in this blessed land to work pretty hard to show that Canadian values can work.