The Viceregal Lion
  1. The Governor General of Canada
  2. Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette
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Meeting with Canadian Soldiers Deployed to Afghanistan

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Meeting with Canadian Soldiers Deployed to Afghanistan

Afghanistan, Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I have been anxiously awaiting this opportunity to come back here, to this country where your mission has brought you.

Particularly given that at this very moment, Afghanistan is going through a pivotal time in its history, as its people struggle to overcome decades of distress and insecurity.

This morning, I had the opportunity to visit the Sayad Pacha School, built in 2008 with Canadian aid, where 520 students, half of whom are girls, attend classes. When I asked those children about their dreams for Afghanistan, without hesitation, they answered: Security. Security to go after their dreams, and education to achieve them.

So it is for these children that you are working. It is for them that we are here and for them that you are giving so selflessly. So that the flame of hope that I saw in their eyes continues to burn. So that these young girls and boys who dream of becoming engineers, doctors, teachers—who told me so with such pride, such confidence, such faith—can thrive as they follow the luminous path of their dreams.

Know that your fellow Canadians are very proud of what you are accomplishing here and are very much aware of the sacrifices you are making.

You who have come to this troubled region of the world to defend the democratic ideal to which all peoples should be able to aspire unimpeded.

You who risk everything to create a safe environment and encourage conditions that are favourable to the development of the women, children and men of Afghanistan.

You who are paving the way for humanitarian workers and forging productive partnerships with a population that has long suffered under tyranny, violence and oppression.

I have come to tell you not to lose sight of the reason for our commitment to the people of Afghanistan, at this critical point in your mission and the democratic and stabilization process underway.

We must restore hope in peace, justice and prosperity, where for too long there has been only chaos, iniquity and ruin.

We must give the people of Afghanistan the means to reclaim their destiny with dignity and assurance, and enable them to build a democracy from their own perspective.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on how things are really going on the ground.

I know that the task is monumental and far from easy.

I know that every wounded soldier, every loss is a devastating blow.

As you know, I take part in the repatriation ceremonies in Trenton.

I visit the military bases and the hospitals.

And I meet with your families. Your partners. Your children. Your fathers and your mothers. Your brothers and your sisters. Those you hold closest to your hearts.

It is difficult for us to imagine the strength and selflessness that it takes for you to carry out your mission successfully.

But you are doing so. Know that Canadians everywhere hold you in the highest regard.

You are doing so because it is important for you to “make a difference”. Many of you have told me just that.

And your loved ones are doing so because they respect the choice that you have made, because they love you and are proud of you. That is what they tell me.

Today, it is my turn to assure you that you have my unwavering support as commander-in-chief.

Finally, allow me to confide something in you, as I have done with some of you already.

I was born in a country where for many years, the uniform had come to symbolize brutality, horror and tyranny.

I have come a long way from that child who grew up under a regime of terror, in Haiti, to become the woman who stands before you now.

Since the beginning of my mandate, I have worked alongside you every day. I have visited your places of work. I have seen you in action.

If you only knew how proud I am of you as I look out at you today; how proud I am to be your commander-in-chief.

You have forever changed my perception of the men and women who don the uniform, and for that, I thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Thank you for everything you do on our behalf.

I have no doubt that history will remember the role that you are playing in ensuring that security, justice and freedom prevail in this part of the world, where it is crucial to build and maintain peace along with our Afghan sisters and brothers.

It is their greatest wish and it is the ultimate purpose for our being here, by their side.