The last time I was in Winnipeg was when Julie and I took a train ride with Ambassador Doer and his wife Ginny on his last day in Canada before heading to Washington as the Canadian Ambassador. Then I went to the swearing in of Premier Selinger. Hard to top that. But we tried.
After a breakfast with Hartley Richardson of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, the Principal Officer in Winnipeg, Michelle Jones, and I met with leaders from the Canadian Muslim Leadership Institute. We were joined by the former Lt. Governor of Manitoba, John Harvard. We talked about ways we can work together to overcome suspicion and mistrust between different religious and cultural groups. Interestingly, we discussed our common backgrounds –- our families were all immigrants to North America at various times. The Institute has launched a leadership program to get the various groups talking to each other, whether it’s in person or through “webinars”.
Next we went to meet with Premier Selinger. In addition to catching up on a number of issues, we had a special treat. A copy of the Magna Carta was on display at the Legislature. It’s one of the most beautiful buildings in Canada; the grand entrance is guarded by two ½ ton life-size bison statues, representing the herds that once roamed Manitoba. They were installed by being slid on blocks of ice across the floor to where they stand today.
Seeing the Magna Carta was thrilling, and our Manitoban friends related the story of its arrival: previously on display in New York City, the volcanic ash cloud over Iceland delayed its return home to the UK. The Magna Carta arrived with two couriers and security rivaling that depicted in the film “National Treasure”.
Realizing that the nearly 800-year-old Magna Carta, the document that enshrined human rights, was right in front of me was amazing. It was even more special to see that it was displayed next to a stone from Runnymede, brought by the Queen on her visit to Winnipeg. The stone will be a cornerstone of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, which (like the Canadian Muslim Leadership Institute) promotes tolerance and respect for all.
We hurried over to the Hotel Ft. Garry, a railroad hotel and a local landmark, so that I could give a speech to the Canadian Club of Winnipeg on economic issues confronting the United States and Canada. Next up was Assembly of First Nations where 1,300 aboriginal leaders from across Canada were gathered. It was an honor to appear before them and to deliver the greetings of President Obama.
Later, we met with Manitoba Grand Chief Ron Evans, whom I met on my first trip to Winnipeg. Among other issues, we talked about how the First Nations could expand their trade with the United States.
I’m now on the plane back to Ottawa. It had been a long trip. In fact, since we left for the G8/20 on June 24 we have been on the road almost continuously. So we are kind of weary. But we have had so many wonderful experiences. The Presidential visit. Halifax and the Queen. Canada Day. The 4th of July. A trip to Washington. Bastille Day. Calgary and the Stampede. Winnipeg.
This is a great job.