The Viceregal Lion
  1. The Governor General of Canada
  2. Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette
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Ceremony Marking the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain

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Ceremony Marking the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain

Ottawa, Sunday, September 19, 2010

As commander-in-chief, it is a great honour and privilege to take part in this celebration marking the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

A sad memory, this battle—fought in the air for the most part—resulted in the death of 23 of the approximately100 Canadian pilots who took part.

But this battle also allowed the Allies to change the course of the Second World War, and represents a remarkable international effort to vanquish the tyranny of the Nazi regime, in the name of freedom and in defence of democracy.

Side-by-side with their Allied comrades, these pilots—“so few” in the words of Winston Churchill—gave new hope to Great Britain and helped end the Nazi domination that surged across a bullied and terrified Europe.

That is the magnitude of their contribution, and I unhesitatingly applaud the spirit of reconciliation you strove to bring to this ceremony by inviting German and Italian veterans, former enemies brought together today so that the solidarity between us will forever continue to reign.

On this solemn occasion, I am also very proud to wear the military uniform of the Air Force, to honour its members and to highlight their exceptional work here at home and around the world.

This gesture is hardly insignificant for me, having grown up under the yoke of a merciless dictatorship, where military uniforms were associated with the brutal repression of the population.

Rather, it is a symbol of the journey taken by the woman who stands before you.

I owe this openness to you, and for this, I thank you very much.

You are not born the commander-in-chief; I have proudly become the commander-in-chief because of you.

Everywhere I have travelled, across Canada and around the world, I have witnessed your generosity, your courage and your willingness to contribute to the well being of people in places where it is essential to re-establish and maintain peace, to provide emergency assistance or to take part in reconstruction efforts.

I will have a lasting memory of you and hold the greatest respect for the ideal of justice, peace and freedom that you carry like a torch, sometimes even risking your very lives, as today’s ceremony reminds us.

These values, so admirably incarnated by the members of the Canadian Forces I have had the privilege of working with and witnessing in action as commander-in-chief over the past five years, are why you are so dear to my heart and why I hold you in such high esteem.

I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to everyone gathered here today and to the members of the Canadian Air Force.

I shall never forget you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.