Ladies and gentlemen,dear friends ,kæru vinir
It is a great honour to be celebrating with you the sixty years anniversary of Iceland´s Independence. Two days ago I adressed people in Manitoba who also were celebrating this important event.
These celebrations took place by the memorial of Jon Sigurdsson in Winnipeg, but his birthday was chosen to give birth to an independent Icelandic nation. He more than anyone else had given us the self -confidence and spirit necessary for a free people. We are honoring him today and it is moving that Icelanders and people of Icelandic descent do so in many places in Canada . The people of Iceland owe a lot to Jon Sigurdson and every year we gladly pay our tribute to him and his invaluable contribution to Iceland.
We are celebrating today at a place that fostered one of Iceland´s greatest minds, Stephan G. Stephanson. For those who know and love his poetry this is holy ground. He was a man of two worlds - the old and the new. He was born in Iceland and from an early age he learnt all that was best in Icelandic culture. Books and story-telling have been close to the hearts of Icelanders since the time of settlement and he read avidly all his life and no doubt loved the old Sagas as all of us do.
But he chose, like a large proportion of our nation, to seek a new life in the new world. He no doubt wanted to seek better prospects with his family.
He diligently worked his farm which was hard work but wrote his masterpieces during the evenings and long into the nights. He lived in Canada and wrote in Icelandic – a man of two worlds. He loved his new country but was at the same time loyal to his old one. When he visited Iceland he was received and treated like royality. I think that says something about the quality of his work and how much we all admired and enjoyed his poems.
The written word has always been very important to Icelanders.
We always had books and read them – it has often been said that even the poorest of homes in Iceland always had some books.
The words of Jon Sigurdsson gave us the inspiration and the strength of spirit that eventually led to our independence sixty years ago. The people of Icelandic descent in Canada have always honoured the memory of Jon Sigurdsson and shown remarkable loyalty to our common heritage and history.
The ties that link us together are still alive and go well beyond common heritage and ancestry.
Iceland´s new economy is a vibrant one. Alberta is a strong driving force in the economy of Canada. We look forward to many opportunities for collaboration, and in this respect we welcome the establishment of the new Icelandic Canadian Chamber of Commerce, which is headed by the Icelandic Consul in Edmonton, Mr. Gordon Reykdal.
We are aware of the efforts that you have been making in maintaining the heritage of this historic site, and the sacrifices that you have made to make that happen. Fensala Hall is a site of great significance in the history of the Markerville settlement, and serves as a symbol for the great pioneer spirit of the Icelandic settlers here, and indeed everywhere in North America. Wherever a settlement was created by Icelanders, the community was always quick to establish facilities for community activities with a strong Icelandic cultural flavour such as schools, community halls, newspapers and churches. Fensala Hall stands today as a proud testament to this spirit.
Let me conclude by saying, that the Icelandic Government, fells that it has a responsibility towards people of icelandic descent in Canada so you may share with us Icelandic culture and history which after all belongs also to you.
The Government has now two diplomatic offices in Canada so we may better serve this purpose. We hope to work with you in the future and build on the solid foundation, we already have
I am delighted to be celabrating this event with you here in Markerville, Alberta and I thank you for inviting us here.
May God bless you all.