National Aboriginal Day and the Tenth Anniversary of the National Aboriginal Monument
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Ottawa, Tuesday June 21, 2011
What a pleasure it is for me to celebrate National Aboriginal Day with you.
And what an honour to join with you to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the National Aboriginal Monument, and to reflect upon the sacrifices that thousands of Aboriginal men and women made for our freedom.
Sacrifice is not a word we use very often anymore. Indeed, it is a word that makes many of us uncomfortable. A word that many of us hope to avoid. A word that runs contrary to what so many of us strive for each and every day. A word that forces us to consider whether we could surrender all that we hold dear for the sake of another.
This Monument is a testament to sacrifice. It is a solemn reminder of those who put our comfort ahead of their own. Who gave up their hopes and dreams so that ours could come true. Who yielded their potential for our gain. And who laid down their lives so we could be free.
Since Canada’s earliest days, the First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples have given much to forge and sustain peace within our own borders and around the world. They have overcome cultural challenges to help shape Canada into what it has become today. And they have served and sacrificed with honour, distinction, courage and resolve in ways that conveyed time-honoured traditions and deeply-held beliefs.
Their contributions in uniform have long been acknowledged. Just listen to the words of the 1918-1919 Indian Affairs’ Annual Report:
“The Indians of Canada may look with just pride upon the part played by them in the Great War, both at home and on the field of battle. They have well and nobly upheld the loyal traditions of their gallant ancestors … and have added thereto a heritage of deathless honour which is an … inspiration for their descendants.”
What a legacy those men and women have left! What an example their service has provided!
May this Monument continue to perpetuate that legacy in the years to come. May it remind our children’s children of the sacrifices that were made on their behalf. May it compel Canadians to always give thanks for the blessings that we so richly enjoy. And may it move each and every one of us to serve in keeping with the debt we cannot ever hope to repay.