Your honour Lieutenant, Governor Peter Liba, your honour Shirley Liba, Representatives of the Federal, Provincial and Municipal Governments - Fjallkona -, Ladies and gentlemen.
It is a great honour and privilege for me to stand before you on this day of celebration.
The Icelandic Republic is sixty years old and we chose this day as our national day because it is the birthday of Jon Sigurdsson, whose statue is ever present in this park.
It is highly appropriate to celebrate our independence in the presence of his memorial because he more than any other person gave the Icelandic nation the spirit and self confidence necessary for a nation long under foreign rule to stand on its own among the free nations of the world.
I can only hope that he would approve and be pleased with how we have fared as a free nation. Certainly, I think he would be delighted with Iceland´s standards of education, health care and economy although I am not sure he would understand how we sometimes quarrel over petty things.
The same spirit was in the hearts of the people who left Iceland for North America, mainly Canada in the last years of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century.
They had the self confidence, character and strength of spirit necessary to take their destiny into their own hands and forge a new and bright future for their children on a new continent.
When they left Iceland - times were hard and there didn´t seem to be much hope for improvement any time soon.
So they left to seek a better life for themselves and their children leaving behind a country they loved dearly. They never forgot the land of their ancestors, and carried in their hearts and minds Iceland´s culture literature and heritage.
The Icelandic settlers and their descendants in Canada have done Iceland proud and everywhere we go, we hear that they enjoy respect for their contribution to what today is Manitoba and Canada. They were hard working honest people with a great sense of social responsibilities to their fellow man and society as a whole.
We, from the old country, are proud of your achievements and your contributions to the Canadian society. We assure you that in Iceland the interest for the relatives here has never been greater.
The Government of Iceland recognizes that we have a common heritage -history and culture and Government policies reflect that .
We try to bring to you meaningful cultural events and we have a fruitful cooperation in education, most clearly manifested in the co-operation between the Universities of Manitoba and Iceland. We hope to build on that even further. Minister Tim Sale and I had the pleasure last year of signing a MOU between the Province of Manitoba and Iceland on the future uses of hydrogen and I think Manitoba and Iceland can both benefit from this cooperation.
Because we have a very special relationship we will in the future find other areas of cooperation in culture science and education.
Manitoba has indeed a very personal and emotional significance for me because my grandparents moved here in search of new opportunites.
They were young people full of hope - but fate dealt them a terrible blow. Soon after they settled here my grandfather died - a young man.
They were living in Gimli. My grandmother moved back to Iceland with my mother only 2 years old and that is why I am adressing you here as an icelander and not as a Canadian of Icelandic origin.
The bonds and ties between us are everywhere.
May I conclude by thanking you for the kind invitation to be with you here today. It is for me an emotional moment - certainly a moment I will remember with pleasure -- always.
God bless you all.