On the first day of 2021, Government House remained closed and quiet, the traditional New Years Day Levee having been cancelled due to the ongoing epidemic and Government House renovations. It must be acknowledged the year that followed has been extraordinarily difficult.
In addition to the challenges of COVID-19, we mourned the opioid-related deaths of close to 2,000 people. We confronted the brutal reality of the burial sites of Indigenous children at former residential schools. And we faced the real-time impacts of climate change in the catastrophic fires and floods that ravaged our communities and devastated critical infrastructure.
But we also found hope in the generosity of countless British Columbians who voluntarily stepped up to assist in the face of these challenges. I am so grateful to all of you.
In different times, who would have believed that the highlight of the year would be a jab in the arm? But Canadians sighed with relief as we received our COVID-19 vaccinations, and life began slowly to change for the better. We’re not yet out of the woods but, thanks to the outstanding efforts of scientists and public health leaders, we’ve regained some of the freedom we once took for granted, to gather in public and unite with our families, friends, and colleagues.
Government House renovations are now complete, and we are, once again, up and running. Although public health measures prevent our holding large public events such as the New Year’s Levee, we have been delighted to welcome smaller groups, such as the BC/Yukon Legion for the presentation of the first poppy, and several diplomatic delegations. I was also delighted to welcome Lieutenant Governors and Territorial Commissioners from western and northern Canada to British Columbia.
I’m grateful to have spent time in person with many of you, as we honoured the selfless work of our health care and essential services workers and the humanity of those who house and care for the most vulnerable among us. I am thankful for the dedicated service of our political leaders and the public servants who have delivered some absolute feats of public administration; for the businesses that have kept our economy functioning; and for the cultural and faith organizations that have kept us connected and hopeful.
I was pleased to work with the BC Achievement Foundation to launch the BC Reconciliation Awards, and was inspired by the extraordinary recipients, who remind us of the power of compassion and collaboration in advancing the true meaning of Reconciliation.
We also recognized outstanding British Columbians through our awards and honours programs. The Lieutenant Governor’s Medal for Inclusion, Democracy and Reconciliation celebrated post-secondary students from throughout the province. The Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence, a partnership with BC and Yukon Book Prizes, was presented to Joseph Dandurand of Kwantlen First Nation. Tantalus Vineyards received the Wine of the Year award for its 2018 Old Vines Riesling, as part of the BC Lieutenant Governor’s Wine Awards. In addition, the Democracy & Me art contest, a partnership with the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, attracted many thoughtful submissions of original art by young British Columbians.
As always, I wish to extend my personal thanks to my Honorary Aides-de-Camp, the Friends of Government House Gardens Society, the Government House Foundation, the LG Youth Advisory Council, and all those who support the Office of the Lieutenant Governor and the activities of Government House. I am most appreciative of you all.
As the year draws to a close, I find myself reflecting on how grateful I am to be a citizen of Canada and to have the privilege of serving the citizens of British Columbians, all of you who inspire my respect and admiration every day.
I’m also grateful for the continued leadership of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, whose tireless work and adherence to duty continues undiminished despite the personal loss she suffered this year in the passing of His Royal Highness The Prince Phillip Duke of Edinburgh.
Her Majesty’s reign will be marked in 2022 with her Platinum Jubilee and I look forward to celebrating this marvelous milestone with all of you.
As I reflect on the year ahead, I wish you all health, happiness and success, however you yourselves define these things. If I can offer you any advice, it will be this: to express the friendship and love you feel for others without delay and without reserve, and to take the chances that will surely come your way to contribute to the fabric of goodwill in your communities, our province and our country.