Bula Vinaka and good evening to you all.
Thank you for your warm welcome tonight. I am delighted to be here, at the invitation of one of Canada’s finest—and, of course, Fiji’s most magnificent—overseas pageant. Throughout the world, people talk about the beauty of Fiji,but I don’t think they ever imagined that so much Fijian beauty, brains and talent could be found so far from our shores.
I wish to congratulate the organizers for putting together tonight’s inaugural event. This pageant doesn’t just attract Fijians living here in Canada; it also connects many people who are closely linked to Fiji through birth, family, culture and the common experience of being Fijian.
I believe this is the first-ever Miss Fiji Canada pageant, and it coincides with the first visit to Canada by any Fijian Prime Minister. And you are stealing a march on Fiji by celebrating this year’s first Fiji Day. It’s two months ahead of schedule, but it proves that Fiji Day can be any day when a Fijian community joins together to celebrate their heritage and pay tribute to the nation of their birth.
But this Fiji Day—and even this pageant—has a bittersweet quality because we know why many of you are celebrating Fiji Day today in Canada and not on October 10 in Fiji. We know why many of these beautiful young ladies are competing for the title of Miss Fiji Canada. We know why there is such a large Fijian community here in Canada. Because many of you were told through words or threats or worse that you were not welcome in Fiji, that you did not belong in Fiji, that you were not Fijian no matter how many generations your family had lived and toiled on Fijian soil.
Those days are behind us, thank God. Fiji is poorer for your having left, and Canada is all the richer, rewarded for its generosity, its tolerance and its innate and very refined sense of justice and equality. Fijians have repaid their adopted country with loyalty, energy and accomplishment, as is fitting. And Fijians no longer have to choose between the country of their birth and the country that took them in, because our laws now allow for multiple citizenship. So, if you must leave, remember: You never truly abandon your bure in Fiji.
So, although it would make me very happy to see all of these beautiful and intelligent young women in Fiji, I take great pleasure in seeing them here, where they are living examples of the enduring quality and talent of all the people of Fiji.
Tonight is a celebration of our historical roots and of those enduring Fijian bonds—bonds that transcend distance, race and religion. As we celebrate the Miss Fiji Canada 2015 Red Carpet Gala tonight, remember that this event symbolizes the beauty of our Fiji, our home, the spirit of our people, and the permanence of what it means to be Fijian.
Beauty, my fellow Fijians, is found in the heart, through the values that guide our lives–values like love, generosity, understanding, acceptance, charity, honour and integrity. Beauty—the beauty of nature, art, music, literature or architecture—ennobles and enriches our lives. Human beauty does the same if we remember that it is more than physical. Human beauty requires those values that build strong character, that allow us to connect with and care for our fellow human beings with kindness, generosity and justice. Values that tell us to care for the natural world that God has entrusted to us. Values that drive us to build a better world—a more just and caring world—for our children’s children.
This event will surely reveal more than the physical beauty of these young women. It will show how the talent, intelligence and character that turn their fine physical traits into genuine beauty—the divine spark in us that makes us human.
We Fijians are united through our homeland and our culture. And we are especially united through our humanity. Fiji will always be your home. Fiji’s arms will always be open. And Fiji will always be proud of who you are and what you have created here in Canada.
Thank you, and good luck to all the beautiful Fijian contestants who have worked so hard to be here tonight.
Vinaka Vakalevu.