Consecration and Presentation of Colours to the Royal Military College Saint-Jean
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Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Saturday, May 21, 2011
This is a great day for everyone at the Royal Military College Saint-Jean, and a wonderful day for Canada.
I am delighted to be here for the latest chapter in the remarkable history of this college, and of the community of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu. The presentation and consecration of your new stand of colours is a proud moment for us all.
A few years ago, my predecessor, the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, was here to reopen the Royal Military College Saint-Jean, an occasion some of you may recall. I want to quote some of her remarks from that day, because I think they capture an essential quality of this place:
“To my mind, it is a promise for the future,” she said. “A promise for the future that we make to those young people who choose to serve their country in the Canadian Forces, in the name of an ideal of justice and freedom.”
When you enlisted in the Forces, you were no doubt driven by these ideals and by the desire to serve your principles. This drive will sustain you throughout your career.
These colours boldly represent your desire to serve. They symbolize your honour and your sense of duty to Canada, and to a fairer, more just world. This sense of duty has led you—and your families and loved ones—to accept the demands of service: the long hours, the difficult and relentless training regimen, and the constant need for flexibility and self-discipline.
Under these colours, aspiring officers will receive the education and training in academics, leadership, athletics and languages they need for a lifetime of service. More than any piece of equipment, the time that you spend here will arm you for the rest of the career.
It will inform everything you do.
To get a sense of this, let us take a moment to recall the original opening of the Royal Military College Saint-Jean, on November 13, 1952.
On that day, another predecessor of mine—the Right Honourable Vincent Massey—was here to mark the occasion. In his address, he spoke of the significance of the College’s mandate to provide both military training and a more general education for Canadian soldiers.
This broad learning is important, he said, because it allows us to better understand what we are defending—namely, our civilization, which was founded on freedom and the rule of law.
“The defence of our way of life is more than a technique,” he said. “It is a calling. One cannot defend unfamiliar ground. You come here to know what you have to defend as well as how to defend it.”
You will carry what you learn here for the length of your military career. You will draw on your training and your education while on foreign missions and deployments, and you will use it here in Canada, on more familiar ground.
All the while, these colours will remain.
I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the tireless efforts made by Canadian Forces members this spring, in the face of severe flooding along the Richelieu River. The people of this region, and all those who have struggled with rising floodwaters in other parts of Canada, are truly grateful.
Each of these soldiers enlisted for a lifetime of service with the Canadian Forces, eager to fulfill their duty. Their devotion is an example to us all.
And so it was with great pride and confidence that I presented these colours to the Royal Military College Saint-Jean.
May they long be a symbol of the depth of Canada’s commitment to the common good.