Remarks to introduce Ambassador Kevin Vickers, on the occasion of the launch of Faith in Canada 150. Toronto, November 5, 2015.
It is my pleasure to introduce to you our guest of honour, His Excellency Kevin Vickers, the Ambassador of Canada to Ireland since January of this year. Many of you came to know Mr. Vickers about a year ago, in his role as Sergeant-at-Arms of the House of Commons. After the events of 22nd October 2014, he was praised by many Canadians, including our Parliamentary leaders, as a hero worthy of honour. Before his time as Sergeant-at-Arms, Mr. Vickers served for 29 years in the RCMP, retiring at the level of Chief Superintendent.
We invited Mr. Vickers to be our guest of honour this evening because of two other titles he holds, besides Ambassador and former Sergeant-at-Arms. We invited him because he also a citizen and a believer. A man loyal to Canada and a man of faith.
Faith in Canada 150 aims to tell the story of Canada, past and present, as it truly is, which means not excluding the essential role that faith has played in Canada's history and in the lives of Canadians. Kevin Vickers has demonstrated that serving Canada and serving God are not mutually exclusive. Contrariwise, to understand why he has served Canada so well requires an understanding of how he first learned to serve God, as a young boy in New Brunswick learning his Catholic faith from the teaching and witness of his father.
The story of Kevin Vickers is not much different from the stories of countless Canadians who have kept Canada glorious and free for 150 years, and before. Faith in Canada 150 finds in Mr. Vickers a living embodiment of our animating principle, that you cannot understand Canada's history, Canada's present challenges, or Canada's potential without reference to religion and the contributions of faith-filled Canadians.
I had the occasion to meet Mr. Vickers recently at the Canadian embassy in Dublin, and he shared with me a story that helps explain who he is, and why we are pleased to have him grace our launch. During his service in the RCMP, he gained a reputation for being particularly effective in obtaining confessions from those accused of murder—so much so, that other interrogators would come to watch him at work. He told me that while they could observe his techniques, they often missed the foundation of his approach, namely to respect the God-given dignity of the accused. His interrogations helped the accused arrive at the truth because he began with a truth at the heart of his biblical faith, that every man is made in the image of God, no matter how marred that image might become by sin. Mr. Vickers was better at his job because he tried to live as best he could the teachings of his Catholic faith. That's Faith in Canada 150.
Many of you will have seen images of the Speaker's procession to open the day at the House of Commons. The Sergeant-at-Arms, dressed ceremonially, carries the Mace, the symbol of the Speaker's authority and the rights conferred by the Crown on the House of Commons to meet and propose laws to the sovereign. On the Parliament of Canada website there is a description of the history and composition of the Mace. We read there:
The head of the mace is in the shape of a crown, with the Royal Arms of the United Kingdom appearing on it in relief. Roses, shamrocks, thistles, fleurs-de-lys and maple leaves are carved on the staff.
Which is true, as far as it goes. But it neglects to mention that the most notable item, at the very top of the Mace, above the crown, is not a maple leaf or a thistle, but the cross. What Kevin Vickers carried into the House each day was not only the heraldry of our history, but a symbol of faith. The two go together, and if we ignore one—as the Parliamentary website does—we honour neither.
We all have our crosses to bear in life and, as far as it goes, the Mace of the House of Commons is grander than most. Kevin Vickers, a servant of Canada and disciple of Christ, has lived a life made possible by the grandness of our history and the broad horizons of our faith.
Please welcome him, our guest of honour, as we launch Faith in Canada 150.