This was the message delivered by Governor General David Johnston on Thursday afternoon, March 3, at an event at the Kay Meek Centre in West Vancouver.
Johnston and his wife Sharon were in the Lower Mainland for a two-day visit recognizing remarkable Canadians with awards and honours as well as participating in a number of cultural, innovation-themed and community-building events.
Sea to Sky community foundations, which include Squamish, Whistler, Sunshine Coast, North Shore, West Vancouver and Bowen Island, hosted the event.
Johnston was last in Vancouver five years ago for the bi-annual Community Foundations of Canada Conference where he issued a call to action to create smarter and caring communities ahead of Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017.
He said community foundations across the country have answered that call and the foundations in the Sea to Sky region are no exception.
“This event is a wonderful example of what becomes possible through partnership,” Johnston said. “Your region is culturally diverse and its rapidly changing demographics represent both a challenge and an opportunity. In short, while the Sea to Sky region is one of the most beautiful and prosperous regions in Canada, we can’t afford to be complacent. That’s why you are here today – because you know there is always more to do and that we must do more.”
Following Johnston’s presentation, Chris Kennedy, superintendent and CEO of West Vancouver Schools, hosted a short panel discussion with Johnston and community members, including business owners and area youth. The discussion re-enforced the need to work together across the region to build bridges and break down barriers.
“Canada is only as strong as its people and its communities. People don’t just live in Canada – they live in West Vancouver, Bowen Island, Squamish, the North Shore and on the Sunshine Coast,” added Johnston. “People live their daily lives in communities – communities are where the rubber meets the road. That’s why your efforts are so vitally crucial in building a smarter and more caring Canada.”
Vicki Dobbyn, vice-president of the Sunshine Coast Community Foundation, and director Sandra Cunningham both agreed that no action is too small when trying to create smarter and caring communities.
“What I took away is how important it is not to get lost in the size of the opportunity, but to even start small, do something and have it be something that is a little contagious so other people can see how wonderful that is,” Cunningham said. “Like the Governor General said, hope, hope is really all we have. As a grandparent and a community person, we worry about the future and we have to do something to help change what the future could be to what it can be. Again small bits, but small bits can end up [leading] to something impactful.”
Dobbyn also found inspiration in the diversity that was present.
“These six community foundations have come together. We are just so much stronger with cooperation. We can learn together. We have regional interests. What foundations do – they look at the big picture,” she said. “Recognizing the diversity of our region was very clear today. That really reflects our community and enriches us.”
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