Canada’s head of state, Governor General Michaelle Jean, has hailed the inauguration of US President Barack Obama as “a new page in the history of civilizations”.
Jean, who is herself of African origin, became the first black person to be made head of state of a major Western industrialized country with her appointment in September 2007, said Obama’s election was fulfilling the wishes of people from every background and every creed, “to see our world become more just and more human”.
Obama’s swearing in meant that both neighbouring industrialized giants of North America were both headed by black. Jean was born in Haiti and moved with her parents to Canada to escape the dictatorship of the Duvaliers.
Recounting the joy of her “own Haitian ancestors, as they cast off the yoke of oppression to establish, in 1804, the first Black republic in the world”, Jean said the dream of Martin Luther King Jr for all races “to sit down together at the table of brotherhood,” had helped to pave the way for an African American to take office in the White House today.
“The inauguration of the 44th president of the United States of America, Mr. Barack Obama, is a historic moment that we are joyfully celebrating,” she said, “because although this event is taking place in the land of our partners, our neighbours and friends to the south, it is filled with symbolic meaning on a global scale.
“A new page in the history of civilizations is being written before our very eyes, fulfilling the wishes of so many youths, women and men, from every background and every creed, to see our world become more just and more human.
“In these times, when the most fragile among us are threatened by an uncertain economy, by the folly of war and the tension born of prejudice, let us all rejoice in the wave of hope that is filling our hearts.
“It is the hope for a world where human beings will at last find their place at the centre of the systems they have created to make life the most wondrous of adventures.”
Jean offered Canada’s wishes for success to the new American president and said the country was “thrilled that Canada will soon welcome him here during his first official foreign visit.”
The Canadian head of state is nominated by the prime minister and is a largely ceremonial post as representative of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.