Reception in Honour of the Supporters of the Hill 70 Memorial Project
Rideau Hall, Thursday, August 31, 2017
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I would like to take a moment to acknowledge that we are gathering on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people.
Welcome to Rideau Hall for this celebration of the Hill 70 Memorial Project, which was officially opened last week in France.
This is also a celebration of all of you, of all that you have done to make this dream into a reality.
You are volunteers who donated your time and your talents.
You are donors who backed this memorial wholeheartedly.
You are supporters who helped build and maintain the momentum of this project from conception to construction.
Your efforts are so important and meaningful.
It was a solemn privilege to be in Loos-en-Gohelle in April to dedicate the Hill 70 Memorial. I saw the progress that was being made on the monument. It was already standing tall and proud, and work was continuing on the surrounding grounds. It is very impressive.
I could tell even then that this would become a beautiful place of quiet reflection and remembrance.
Today, it is open to the public and will tell the story—our country’s story—on Hill 70.
We must never forget what happened there 100 years ago.
The war at that time was not going well for Canada and the Allied forces.
Enter the Canadian Corps, commanded by Lieutenant General Arthur Currie. Their objective was to seize the high point of land, Hill 70, thus relieving pressure on the Allied forces at Passchendaele.
It was that simple. And it was that hard.
But through bravery and grit and perseverance, the Canadian soldiers succeeded.
They captured that land and they held it, despite more than 21 counterattacks over three days.
In the end, more than 9 000 Canadians were killed and wounded. A terrible cost for an important victory.
Every loss in war means one less loved one returning home. One less mind to imagine how our country can be greater. One less pair of hands to build stronger communities. One less voice to speak up and be heard.
It is our responsibility to preserve their memories, and the memory of their sacrifice.
Some of you here with us today have a personal connection to that battle. Family members who fought and sacrificed for our country at Hill 70.
You know better than anyone the importance of our obligation. It is a responsibility that you have all agreed to shoulder.
Each of you, in your own way, has contributed to making Hill 70 a permanent part of our nation’s story. Awareness of this important battle is increasing, largely thanks to your determined efforts.
And in so doing, you honour the memory of those who never came home, and you honour our country.
As governor general and commander-in-chief of Canada, and as patron of the Hill 70 Memorial project, I thank you for your role in remembering our past.