MP Bezan's speech at the unveiling of the Sigtryggur Jonasson Statue in Riverton, Manitoba
Thank you, Dr. (Rick) Wishart.
Good afternoon. Bonjour. Góðan dag (pronounced: gothun dagg).
And thank you to everyone for joining us here today.
Sigtryggur Jónasson is a name that is well-known and admired in Manitoba’s Icelandic community.
On the shores of Lake Winnipeg, he helped to found “New Iceland,” a settlement of his countrymen and women that served as the forerunner of our province’s thriving Icelandic-Canadian community.
A self-administering ethnic reserve granted by the Government of Canada, he helped to choose the settlement’s location, draft its constitution and served as its first elected leader.
Service was a life-long pursuit of Jónasson’s.
Not only did he help found the community, but he went on to lead it in many different ways - as a newspaper publisher, businessman and politician, he helped to ensure the financial and cultural survival of the new settlement.
Importantly, Jónasson’s service was not just to his community, but to his country.
As a federally appointed immigration agent, he felt a strong personal commitment to his new country of Canada. In this capacity, he was instrumental in ensuring the vast majority of the approximately 20,000 compatriots who immigrated to North America between 1870 and 1914 settled in Canada.
Provincially, in 1896 Jónasson became the first Icelander elected to the Manitoba Legislative Assembly, to which he was re-elected in 1907.
For these reasons and more, the Government of Canada is very proud to dedicate a plaque to Sigtryggur Jónasson as a national historic person, so that all Canadians can understand and appreciate the special place he holds in the history of our province and our country.
Designations and commemorative plaques placed by Parks Canada and the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada are part of our Government’s ongoing efforts to conserve the nation’s historic places and present them to Canadians.
For their role in recognizing these elements that make up our distinct Canadian identity, Parks Canada and the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada deserve our gratitude.
The Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada began its work in 1919. It is made up of respected historians and other specialists from every province and territory of Canada, and works closely with Parks Canada to promote and protect Canada’s heritage.
Thank you, Dr. Rick Wishart for all your time and effort spent in promoting and protecting Canada’s national heritage.
Our nation is vast; our stories diverse.
I encourage you to explore that rich history. Be inspired to discover the defining moments that make us unique. Create lasting memories and connect with fellow Canadians through our shared heritage.
Become custodians of our cherished past and ambassadors of our national identity. Our stories are yours to share.
Government alone cannot spread the word. It takes interested and dedicated individuals to champion our history and heritage and invest time and energy into promoting and safeguarding our national treasures and stories.
For helping us in that important responsibility, I would like to thank the New Iceland Heritage Museum for everything you have done to make this commemoration possible.
Your efforts over the years have ensured that Sigtryggur Jónasson will continue to be an important part of the historical fabric of Manitoba and all of Canada.
Takk fyrir – (pronounced: tahk fe-reer)