OTTAWA – “Through hardship to the stars” is the motto that will guide Julie Payette, the former astronaut who was sworn in Monday as Canada’s newest Governor General.
Those words are in the Latin “Per Aspera Ad Astra” on a new coat of arms designed to capture Payette’s essence as a scientist, mother and music lover.
Payette, 53, urged Canadians to discover their own strength to help others as she spoke without written notes after being installed as the 29th person to represent the Queen in Canada.
Payette, the first Canadian to work aboard the International Space Station and the the second Canadian woman to go into outer space, told an audience of dignitaries and invited guests that Canadians can “truly move mountains” to tackle serious issues such as climate change, poverty, migration and nuclear threats.
She also issued a tongue-in-cheek apology as she briefly relied on space references in making her point that Canadians can achieve miracles if they work together, because they are all connected in one way or another.
“We are inextricably bound by the same space-time continuum,” Payette said as she stood in front of the Senate’s red throne.
“And, sorry, but we’re all on board the same planetary spaceship.”
Surrounded by dignitaries including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, his cabinet colleagues, Indigenous leaders and about 400 invited guests, Payette was sworn into the mainly ceremonial position by Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin of the Supreme Court of Canada.
Payette swore the oaths of allegiance of the Governor General and commander-in-chief of Canada and of the Keeper of the Great Seal of Canada.
After the oaths, cannons outside the Parliament Building crashed out a 21-gun salute, which could be heard inside.
The audience included justices of the Supreme Court in their fur-trimmed red robes, former governors general, several provincial premiers and Payette’s friends and family, including her 14-year-old son Laurier.
Payette spoke directly to Indigenous leaders in the chamber in praising their generosity and courage through history and heralding the government’s attempts at reconciliation with the people who taught Canada’s ancestors how to survive the cold and appreciate the gifts of nature.
“It is a good thing that we finally decided again to listen to their wisdom,” she said.
“We have to achieve reconciliation for the well-being of our communities and for our children,” she added, speaking in Algonquin.
Payette was also formally presented with the ceremonial collars marking her as chancellor of the Order of Canada, the Order of Military Merit and the Order of Merit of the Police Forces, as well as head of the Canadian Heraldic Authority.
The Montreal-born space explorer credited her parents for supporting her lofty goals, and urged young Canadians to follow their own dreams and work to make them a reality.
“There is no magical solution other than working hard and moving forward,” she said.
While much of the ceremony was dictated by protocol, Payette herself chose the music, which included a rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” sung by Joannie Benoit and Melissa Bedard.
The Juno Award-winning Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Choir, of which Payette was a member, also performed.
Trudeau spoke of Payette’s flights into space as inspiring moments, calling her a two-time extraterrestrial Canadian.
He praised her as a mother, an athlete, a pilot, a scientist and someone who “went where very few others had dared to go.”
“Your journey through space and through life may be unique, but the qualities which underpin every one of your successes are not,” he said.
The prime minister also took time to thank Payette’s predecessor, David Johnston.
“You have made Canada a stronger and a better country.”
In his parting statement, issued Friday, Johnston thanked Canadians for the privilege of serving them.
“It has been a great honour to serve as Canada’s 28th Governor General, to represent Her Majesty The Queen in this important role within our constitutional monarchy and to give back to this country I love so much,” the former academic said.
Payette followed her investiture with a visit to the National War Memorial where the new Governor General laid flowers on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The new viceregal Coat of Arms, which includes a depiction of an astronaut’s helmet and stars, can be found online at: http://bit.ly/2ySarfA.
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