Lieutenant Governor visits Laurier campus

Photo by Brian Phillips

Photo by Brian Phillips

Wilfrid Laurier University welcomed a special guest last week when the Waterloo campus received a visit from the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario.

Being a constitutional democracy, the Canadian head of state is technically Queen Elizabeth ll, who lends her power to be exercised by the Canadian government.

While Ontario’s premier is the head of the provincial government, the lieutenant governor is the reigning monarch’s representative at the provincial level, having been appointed by their federal representative the governor general.

A Lieutenant Governor has an opportunity to touch the hearts and minds of people.

In this role, the Lieutenant Governor is responsible for signing legislative bills into law, approving government business, reading the Speech from the Throne and a myriad of other duties which relate to the successful continuation of the province.

In addition to her official duties, Dowdeswell has additionally taken to heart her responsibility of ensuring that the will of Ontarians is upheld.

“Someone once said that the government, of course, handles the day-to-day management and operations of a province and a Lieutenant Governor has an opportunity to touch the hearts and minds of people. And they may not have any direct power over decision making, but you have the opportunity to really engage with people. It’s just an amazing privilege,” she said.

Since she was appointed into the position in 2014, Dowdeswell has chosen two topics in which to raise particular interest: sustainability and Ontario’s place in the world.

The topics speak to her work prior to holding the position of Lieutenant Governor, when she spent many years working abroad in such positions as executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme and under-secretary-general of the United Nations.

“I think we’ve got a lot to contribute to the world and I’m very interested in finding ways in which we can tell those stories and help the world understand who we are in Ontario,” said Dowdeswell.

“But the other side of the coin is that because we are such an inter-dependent and complex world, we have to know how to live in the world. You have to know other countries or else we run the real risk of getting left behind. And so when I see and talk to students, as I’ve just done, it’s really inspiring and encouraging to find students who understand that this is a different world in which we’re living and we have a contribution to make but we also have a lot to learn.”

Though originally scheduled simply to meet and speak with university president Max Blouw, Dowdeswell filled her afternoon at Laurier with visits to multiple departments, including a meeting with professor Gavin Brockett to discuss a course he developed on Waterloo Region’s response to the Syrian newcomers, as well as a discussion with members of the Immigration Migration Research Centre.

In the evening, Dowdeswell went to Laurier Brantford to give a presentation on residential schools and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The visit allowed Dowdeswell the opportunity to tour the Waterloo campus and experience first-hand some of the work being done by students on the Waterloo campus.

“Wilfrid Laurier has two things going for it. One is that it’s still a small enough size that people can really feel a part of everything, at least, I mean I say that as an outsider, but it really has a sense of belonging. The other thing that I always like to see on campuses is when there are mechanisms that allow various disciplines to come together in some way,” said Dowdeswell.

“And so a school like this, that starts from that premise that everything is linked to everything else, is surely a good place to start.”

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