On Feb. 22, Huntington University's Canadian Finnish Institute kicked off a year of celebrations — Canada is marking its 150th anniversary this year while Finland is celebrating 100 years of independence.
Huntington hosted a luncheon at Bryston's on the Park in Copper Cliff and welcomed a distinguished guest: Vesa Lehtonen, Finland's new ambassador to Canada, in his first visit to Greater Sudbury.
Lehtonen was named a fellow of the CFI, continuing a tradition that began in 2015 with Finland's previous ambassador to Canada, Charles Murto.
"In a very short time, the Canadian Finnish Institute has brought together many leaders from the Finnish community and has made noticeable gains in highlighting the contributions of the Finnish people to Canada," said Lehtonen. "I am truly honoured to be named a new member of the Canadian Finnish Institute Fellowship program.
"Both Canada and Finland have many things in common. The economic ties between our two countries will be turning 70 years old in November. We share the same values, a system of rules-based law and order, and are life-lining partners in international co-operation."
Dr. Kevin McCormick, president and vice-chancellor of Huntington University, said the CFI's mission is to facilitate enhanced relationships between the people of Canada and Finland.
"In times where people speak about walls and barriers, Finland and Canada, for 100 years and 150 years respectively, understand the power of bridges," said McCormick. "Our two countries are committed to communication, we're committed to growing and having open and frank dialog which has only bennefitted our two contries over our 150 years and your 100 years.
[Lehtonen's] appontment as the head of the embassy of Finland offers a new opportunity for us to collaborate and further the mission of the Canadian Finnish Institute, while working together to highlight the many contributions and successes of both countries."
On Feb. 21, McCormick was named a Knight, First Class, of the Order of the White Rose of Finland. Lehtonen presented the honour at a private evening ceremony.
The CFI will continue to highlight the accomplishments of both Canada and Finland throughout 2017, including the establishment of four commemorative academic awards — two for citizens of Finland and two for Canadians who are doing "interesting and profound work on Finnish-Canadian relationships," according to McCormick.