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As my wife and I look forward to joining millions of Canadians in celebrating the 150th anniversary of the founding of Canada, I have been reflecting on the people who have built Canada and who, through their example, have helped shape not just a country, but the world in which we live.

My grandmother, who said after her first visit in 1939 that she had "lost her heart to Canada," brought me up on stories of this vast land and its extraordinary people. My own first visit was almost 50 years ago and I have never forgotten the warmth of the welcome from the Inuit people of Iqaluit. It set the tone for all my subsequent visits, helping me to understand the very special relationship between my family and the Indigenous peoples of Canada and providing the first of many vivid memories.

Anniversaries are a time to look back, as well as forward. In doing so, we should not close our minds to any of the events of our history. But it is surely even more important to open both our minds and our hearts to the strength and resilience of Aboriginal people across this vast land. In keeping with the spirit that has been so well articulated by Canada's leaders, there are many steps to be taken to reconciliation and recognition, living up to the best example of what has gone before.

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This is exemplified in the Prime Minister's recent announcement that 100 Wellington, a remarkable heritage building in the heart of the National Capital Region, will become a space for Indigenous peoples. It seems to me that rekindling the arts and cultural heritage of Indigenous peoples across the country is also an important step in the process of building a future for Canada that includes everyone. So I am particularly pleased that my Prince's Charities Canada is supporting efforts to preserve and promote Indigenous languages.

Last year I welcomed a group of people from Canada's Arctic region to my home in Wales. They are working to standardize the written Inuit language, Inuktitut, and it was the greatest pleasure to be able to introduce them to members of the Welsh community who are working to revitalize their own language. In Iqaluit I was fortunate enough to see some of the group again when I attended a language preservation event and rather rashly agreed to learn some of the Inuit language myself.

Earlier this year I joined the Governor General, the Prime Minister and thousands of Canadians as we commemorated the incredible commitment and sacrifice of Canadians at Vimy Ridge 100 years ago. Those who served, and in many cases died, at Vimy helped to inspire and protect the values that have underpinned Canadian life for generations. We must never forget their contributions to Canada and the world today, or indeed that today's men and women of Canada's Armed Forces continue to offer themselves in the service of us all.

Today's veterans have much to offer society, but sometimes need help to harness their drive, expertise and leadership. That is why my Prince's Charities Canada established Operation Entrepreneur, offering education, training and the resources needed to assist veterans as they move from a good idea to a good business. It has become a very successful program and at Canadian Forces Base Trenton, I was hugely inspired by the stories of the former service personnel who have been able to establish their own businesses with the support of Operation Entrepreneur.

In looking back over 150 years of Canada's people, whether at the first Aboriginal guides who showed the way across the country, or at the veterans who fought on foreign soil to protect us here, we should also acknowledge the land that shaped them. As much as the actions of its people, it is Canada's natural beauty, vast landscapes and seemingly infinite natural resources that define it in the eyes of the world. These natural features, and the lifestyles they support, are of course a precious inheritance for all Canadians. But we know now that nowhere on the planet is immune to the potential devastation of climate change. So I was fascinated to visit the Nunavut Research Institute, where I heard first-hand accounts of how people in the Arctic region are already experiencing the impacts of climate change and how they are responding. At this critical juncture, I take heart in Canada's example to the world as a country which is passionately committed to protecting our planet for future generations.

As I think of the thousands of Canadians I have met over the decades, both on my visits to Canada and on their visits to the United Kingdom, I am impressed first and foremost by the generosity of the Canadian spirit. It is a spirit that welcomes others, embraces diversity and reaches for understanding amongst all.

Canadians have an unquenchable desire to contribute and to make the world a better place for everyone and they know that each step forward makes a difference, which is why Canada has always been a country with a grand and imaginative vision.

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I see that same vision and reach in Canada's younger citizens today. They are ready to take on the challenges that confront us all, with new solutions, new actions, new ideas and new energy. Looking back, we can see what that kind of leadership has meant in the past as Canadians created one of the world's truly great countries. And, looking ahead, we must imagine what the next generations can and will do if we open the doors of opportunity for them.

My Prince's Charities Canada is striving to be part of that parade of future history that will make the country better and help set an example for the world of what can be done when we work with one another with mutual respect and for the good of others. Identifying charitable needs to support Canadians and creating opportunities that support those needs is a continuous process and I am delighted that we now have programs and initiatives in every province and territory. I am also enormously grateful to all the volunteers, business supporters, donors and advisers who make it all possible through their generosity with both time and money.

Across this great country there are so many examples of people reaching out to others to build a stronger Canada and we must all continue reinforcing, encouraging and celebrating their efforts in the years ahead.

So, it only remains for me to say happy birthday, Canada! I could not be more pleased and proud that my wife and I are able to join you in celebrating this very special milestone in Canada's history.

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