The personal Coat of Arms of
David Johnston as Governor General
Over the past week I have posted, as a review of The Idea of Canada – Letters to a Nation by David Johnston, a trio of posts which originally were a letter to David who is Canada’s Governor General. I asked him some questions in my letter and advised I would post a reply if he consented. The Governor General graciously replied in a handwritten letter which was accompanied by a transcription “for ease of reading” done by his secretary. David’s writing is legible but not easy reading. The letter is:
February 24, 2017
Thank you for your thoughtful – and thought – provoking letter of Feb. 7th – and for taking the time to write. Let me respond to your questions in turn.
1. The letters in The Idea of Canada are a mixture: some spontaneous (though edited) some structure; some to actual persons; some posthumously; some (a majority) largely taken from earlier speeches or submissions, etc.
2. Your Ethelton Library had the same impact on you as the Carnegie Public Library did on me in my hometown, SS Marie. As a 12 yr. old, I learned to operate the movie projector there and had a part-time job showing films.
3. We will be at Vimy in early April in 5 weeks’ time for the 100th anniversary of that remarkable victory. I often refer to the “Canadian” lessons from Vimy as inspiring features of our history including the roles of Byng and Currie who were GG in Canada and Principal – McGill University, positions which I have had the great privilege to hold. When I was there 5 years ago, I was accompanied by 5000 Canadian high school students who had raised the money themselves to support the voyage and each did a historical essay on one of the Canadian fallen soldiers at Vimy.
4. I love your emphasis on how lawyers deal with people and the improvements we need there especially to reinforce trust and adherence to the social contract the legal profession has with people.
5. Ah! Fighing in hockey. We need a good dinner together to discuss this further. We recently convened a conference on violence in sport and concussions and have been working with Ministers of Health and Sport to create a national protocol. You are correct and astute in urging a more complete use of the instruments of the criminal justice system.
6. Bravo on your Melfort Rotary Club initiative. Rotary (Service above Self) is such a force for good. I am honoured to be a Paul Harris Fellow and was a Rotary Scholar to Cambridge, England. My eldest daughter (a lawyer with the Fed Dept. of Justice) was a Rotary scholar to Hong Kong and my eldest nephew a Rotary Scholar to Geneva.
Post any parts of this letter which seem to make sense to you. We still need a good dinner together to continue the conversation.
Warmest regards to the great people of Melfort.
As an aside the following paragraph from the Governor General’s website explains the motto David chose to represent himself:
The Latin phrase CONTEMPLARE MELIORA, meaning “To envisage a better world” (literally “To envisage better things”), alludes to a line from George Bernard Shaw’s play Back to Methuselah (Part I, Act I): “You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not? ’”.