AURORA – This year marks the 100th anniversary of Armistice, the beginning of what has become our act of remembrance. On the 11th hour, of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 the guns fell silent marking one of the most deadliest wars in human history. Over 61,000 Canadians died and over 170,000 were wounded.
World War 1 in many ways shaped Canada as a nation. Canadian soldiers were known for their dependability, innovation and tenacity. They fought with courage and bravery.
World War 1 was the war to end all wars – and Armistice was to have marked “peace in our time”. But unfortunately that was not to be true as world war 2 and claimed another 44,000 dead and 54,000 wounded Canadian soldiers, sailors and airmen.
After that Canada committed to a new world order with the United Nations and as one of the 12 founding members of NATO April 4, 1949 – committed:
– to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilisation of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law.
– to unite their efforts for collective defence and for the preservation of peace and security.
Then with the fall of the Berlin Wall on Nov 9 1989, we celebrated the end of the cold war and a new era of peace and stability. Canada and our NATO allies dramatically reduced our investment in defence – cashing in on the peace dividend. For the last 25 years or so we have not focused on defence and security but rather dedicated our energy and attention to other things.
And that’s ok – until its not.
We are in a time of unprecedented global instability where we are witnessing fundamental shifts in our economic and financial frameworks, our trade relationships, our defence and security structures, and maybe even our concept of nation states and current international agreements and laws. As we navigate this time and envision the future – values will and do matter.
So what does that have to do with remembrance day – or more importantly what does have to do with us in this room.
I think LCol John McCrae answers that question the best – in his poem in Flanders fields where he talks about our responsibility – when he directs us – no commands us speaking in the voice of those who have sacrificed their lives for us – to
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
But in 2018 – who is our foe – there is no enemy…
As we pledged to defend in our NATO alliance – The foe is anyone or anything that would jeopardize our nation’s principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law – anything that would threaten Canada’s economic and political freedom – our self determination – our security – our sovereignty.
A nation’s peace and security is fragile and we must not be complacent or take it for granted. We must accept the responsibility entrusted to us by those who have sacrificed their lives – we must hold the torch high.
To those who serve, those who have served and those who will serve when our country calls – we thank you. Service to country is an honourable profession.
On Remembrance Day and throughout the year we honour those who have sacrificed for the peace and security we enjoy – but we must also be vigilant in defence of the values for which our nation stands … or as John McCrae
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Lest we forget