Speech of the Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker of the Senate of Canada

August 31, 2011

Speaker Kinsella presenting scholarship award to Natasa Paterson

In our 2011 awards ceremony we were honoured to have as our guest speaker The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker of the Senate of Canada. Due to the threat of rain (which thankfully didn’t materialise), thinking of the assembled guests, the Speaker tabled his speech. To view the speech he delivered, click on the frame below;

Speaker Kinsella’s speech in full is as follows;


The Importance of Academic and Cultural Links

Dublin, Ireland
August 29, 2011

Ambassador Hearn,
Your Eminence Cardinal Seán Brady,
Minister Gilmore,
Dobbin Scholarship recipients,
Distinguished guests,

It is a privilege and a pleasure to be here today for the Ireland Canada University Foundation awards ceremony. The Foundation’s continual endeavour to encourage and facilitate university exchanges to the benefit of Irish and Canadian students is commendable.

The late Dr. Craig Dobbin, the Foundation’s original patron, was a man of outstanding achievements, a path which we all hope this year’s recipients of the Dobbin Scholarship will emulate. Having received various awards himself, he would have been delighted to witness its on-going success, as well as the continued involvement of his son Mark.

In my capacity as Speaker of the Senate of Canada, I consistently seek to promote and facilitate international post-secondary education. Having benefitted from studying abroad myself, there is no doubt in my mind of its inherent value.

International post-secondary education is one of the most progressive and worthwhile endeavours an individual can undertake. It attests to a strong character and a willingness to take advantage of a unique opportunity to advance one’s personal education. It also allows a student to embrace an education of a different sort, a cultural education which is capable of reaching far beyond individual communities. It is capable of opening up avenues of communication, tolerance and understanding between societies and individuals that might not otherwise have been possible.

The Canadian Bureau of International Education (CBIE) is one of the preeminent organisations in Canada dedicated to increasing Canadian participation in education institutions abroad, as well as foreign students’ participation in the Canadian education system. In its 2009 report, World of Learning, Canadian Post-Secondary Students and the Study Abroad Experience, the CBIE considered study abroad programmes ‘transformational’. The CBIE President, Karen McBride stated that study abroad:

“…offers the chance for major enhancement to an individual’s education, personal and professional development and, ultimately, his or her ability to contribute to making a better world…Given the overwhelming global challenges faced by the new generation of students and graduates, a broad worldview, underpinned by direct substantive experience of diverse cultures and alternative concerns, is crucial.”

Globalization is the buzzword of the 21st century. The scale of our interconnectedness may be seen in, for example, the recent financial crisis and in the more pervasive process of climate change. We have pushed the boundaries of telecommunications to unprecedented levels that would not have seemed possible only a few short years ago. The world has become a smaller place, while global migratory levels have perhaps never been greater. Meanwhile, global population continues to rise, putting more sustained pressure on the world’s resources. In short, the challenges of today are acute. Education is a key to embracing globalisation, to meeting its challenges and to realising its benefits.

We need not fear the challenges that lie ahead. The history and success of humanity has been founded on ingenuity and innovation. When confronted with seemingly insurmountable obstacles, we have found the means to overcome and prosper. Technological advancements have opened up vast informational and learning opportunities, with the internet front and centre in the communications revolution. From Google to Wikipedia and, for better or for worse, Wikileaks, not to mention the proliferation of 24 hour news networks, excuses run thin for those who claim to be unaware of the most pressing issues that affect us all. The challenge lies in attempting to digest the sheer volume of information available on any given topic, information that is quite literally at our fingertips.

Much has already been achieved, but the possibilities for the future are limitless. Your generation are today’s and tomorrow’s thinkers, inventors and leaders. Moreover, your generation is perhaps the most informed and best educated of any that has gone before. There is little doubt that you are fully capable of meeting and overcoming the many challenges before us.

I have personally benefited from studying abroad. After completing my public schooling in Saint John, New Brunswick, I traveled to Ireland, you will be interested to note, for my undergraduate education, and thereafter to Italy for graduate studies. This experience provided considerable insight into the values, customs and traditions of different societies and cultures. It instilled a greater sense of awareness and appreciation for both commonalities and differences, as well as a feeling of solidarity and kinship that has stayed with me throughout my life. In the process, I forged long-lasting friendships with some who, I am delighted to say, have joined us here today as we recognize some of your achievements.

Since my appointment as Speaker of the Senate of Canada in February 2006, I have found that the background gained through international education many years ago has continued to be useful and has helped to inform my approach to international relations. The position of Speaker affords me the privilege of meeting regularly with members of the diplomatic community, foreign dignitaries, and my counterparts from various countries around the world. On such occasions, I have discussed many and varied topics, all guided by the desire to both maintain and enhance those ties that are of mutual benefit to our respective nations. Whenever the subject of increased student exchanges and increased access to international study programmes is raised, it has invariably garnered an enthusiastic response.

Canada is privileged to have a first-class education system, as does Ireland, which allows us to confidently promote its virtues to other countries and their prospective students. The education of Canadian students can only be enhanced by immersion in foreign cultures, similar to the benefits that the Irish recipients of the Dobbin scholarship will reap from studying in a Canadian education institution. You will all in many ways serve as unofficial ambassadors of your country while studying abroad; both formally and informally educating your host communities about your culture, while simultaneously learning of the culture of those around you. I am confident that you will grasp this opportunity with both hands and contribute to ever closer ties between our two countries.

The education and labour markets are inextricably linked. Mobility of the workforce today is staggering when compared to your parents’ generation, and this mobility applies equally to the field of education. We are seeing the increased ‘internationalisation’ of education, with numerous benefits. For example, a report commissioned by the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in July 2009 entitled, Economic Impact of International Education in Canada, makes for some fascinating reading. It states that in 2008, international students in Canada spent in excess of $6.5 billion on tuition, accommodation and discretionary spending. They created over 83,000 jobs and generated more than $291 million in government revenue.

With this, and far more in mind, many countries have taken significant steps towards developing agreements, programmes and reforms that designate international post-secondary education as a proactive response to the various challenges of a globalized 21st century. Those countries and regions that have consolidated such programmes are competing with one another for the worlds’ talent, with economic, social and political success premised on the availability of a highly skilled and innovative workforce.

There remains one significant obstacle that prevents or discourages many from studying abroad and that is the cost. This is why initiatives such as the Dobbin Scholarship should be cherished by recipients, building as it does on the respective academic excellence that our two countries share. It affords students a wonderful life-enhancing opportunity, the benefits of which will be manifold.

I have observed from afar the resolve of the Irish people in responding to the significant economic challenges that you have faced of late. While I am well aware that this process is on-going and may continue for some time, you deserve the utmost credit and respect for the manner of your response. Yet, neither does it surprise me. I was privileged to benefit directly from your education system through University College Dublin. I witnessed up close a standard of education that continues to be admired across Europe and the world and is rooted in your reputation as a land of ‘saints and scholars.’ It is such academic excellence that will drive the Irish economy and ensure its growth, even in times of adversity.

It was St. Brendan the Navigator who, it is suggested, was the first European to discover North America. If it was St. Brendan, he pioneered a voyage that countless generations of Irish people have undertaken across the Atlantic Ocean to populate countries such as Canada. For this reason, there is an inherent interest in Canada in all things Irish, as evidenced by our enthusiastic celebration of St. Patrick’s Day; a tradition that has its foundations in the estimated 4.3 million Canadian citizens who can claim some degree of Irish ancestry. While many of the early Irish immigrants settled in Newfoundland, their presence has spread throughout our vast country, including my home province of New Brunswick.

The generations of Irish who arrived in Canada have left an indelible mark on our society and culture, and have contributed greatly to our history through figures such as Louise McKinney, the first woman elected to a legislature in the British Empire; Morley Callaghan, a celebrated writer; Thomas D’Arcy McGee, a Father of Confederation; as well as Brian Mulroney, a former Prime Minister of Canada. From the Canada-Ireland Inter-parliamentary Friendship Group through to our distinguished traditions of peacekeeping, Canada anticipates ever greater collaboration with our Irish counterparts; continuing our close, natural relationship of mutual respect and cooperation.

The Ireland Canada University Foundation, in recognition of this, has taken advantage of the historically close ties between our two countries. While there is much that we share in common, there is equally enough diversity in our respective societies that translates into a rich learning experience for both sets of students. I am honoured to be here today to help recognise the academic excellence of those receiving the Dobbin Scholarship. You will have an incredibly rewarding experience that will enrich your academic and life experience, and in the years to come will further enrich the relationship between Ireland and Canada.

Congratulations once again et bonne chance.