Ceremony of Remembrance to Commemorate the 70th Anniversary of D-Day and the Landing at Normandy
Ottawa, Ontario, Friday, June 6, 2014
Without a doubt, D-Day—June 6, 1944—was one of the most significant moments of the Second World War.
The battle was of pivotal importance to the liberation of Western Europe. And, ultimately, it played a significant role in ending the war.
The Allied forces that day included some 14 000 Canadians, taking part by land, sea and air, among the estimated 150 000 Allied troops in the overall operation.
To the veterans who are here with us today, I must say, I am truly humbled by your bravery and your sacrifice.
Seventy years ago today, you faced an uncertain fate in battle. Today, we look back at D-Day as the beginning of the end of the war, but at the time, you knew no such certainty. You awoke that day not knowing whether it would be your last.
Tragically, many of your fellow soldiers did not survive the fierce resistance you faced on the beaches of Normandy.
The Canadian contingent suffered significant casualties and losses. Today is an opportunity to remember them and their loved ones.
In doing so, let us also imagine everything they missed out on in life because of their sacrifice. All the moments of happiness, of love and of beauty that we can so easily take for granted.
Most of those who fell or were wounded were young, in the prime of their lives. I am sure that when dreaming of their future, they never imagined dying or being maimed on a beach in northwestern France, fighting for our freedom.
Those who fought on D-Day did not choose to come of age in a time of terrible conflict.
Ten years ago, my wife, Sharon, and I visited Normandy and saw the D-Day beaches and battlefields first-hand.
For six days, we toured the region, its war memorials and cemeteries, and we were deeply moved by the thought of the intense battle that occurred there in 1944.
As commander-in-chief of Canada, I have had the privilege of meeting with a number of D-Day and Battle of Normandy veterans. I often picture that landscape as I listen to their remarkable stories.
I am always extremely moved by the stories of these veterans, who answered the call to service in our hour of greatest need.
I feel a great surge of pride when I think of the Canadian and Allied achievements on D-Day. It was a massive, complex operation, one that required a great deal of planning, collaboration and determination.
Canadian soldiers landing on Juno Beach faced some of the toughest resistance of any of the Allied troops. The whole nation was inspired by Canada’s D-Day contribution—and we still feel that pride today.
Painful lessons learned earlier in the war were applied on D-Day. For example, the Dieppe offensive, which took place two years earlier, helped the Allies to understand the challenges of conducting an amphibious invasion.
As veterans of the Second World War, you appreciate the enormity of Canada’s sacrifice in a way that few, if any, of us can truly comprehend.
For you, the veterans and survivors, D-Day is not some remote battle, confined to the distant past.
Rather, it lives on, vividly replaying in your hearts and memories.
Sometimes, these memories are of great bravery and heroism; sometimes, of terrible loss and suffering.
Today, people are gathering in communities across Canada, in Normandy and around the world to mark this important anniversary at solemn ceremonies like this one.
As citizens of a free and democratic society, we must never forget those who served on D-Day and throughout the Second World War, nor their incredible courage and determination.
We will always be in your debt.
It is an honour to recognize our veterans and to remember the fallen of Normandy.
As governor general and commander-in-chief of Canada, and as a father and grandfather, I thank you.