The Viceregal Lion
  1. The Governor General of Canada
  2. Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette
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Tribute to Second World War Veterans

Ottawa, Wednesday, September 10, 2014


September 10, 1939 likely began as any other Sunday. Men and women across this vast and diverse country set about their chores, visited with friends and neighbours, and went to church with their families.

However, by the time they sat down for dinner, their lives had changed course forever because of the sombre news heard over the radio:

Canada Joins Allies, Declares War on Germany.

There would be no “peace in our time” for these men and women. Twenty-odd years after the conclusion of the war to end all wars, Canadians were again at war.

From that day forward, hundreds of thousands of young Canadians trooped to recruiting centres. They were not eager for adventure and glory, but quietly resolved to start and finish a job that had to be done.

Theirs was a fight to preserve Canada, a country that cherished freedom, democracy and the rule of law.

A fight to vanquish a regime of tyranny and genocide, one that ruled by fist, club and boot.

From that fateful day in September 1939, until the war’s ultimate end in 1945, more than one million Canadians served in uniform, and they all made sacrifices of some kind.

Forty-five thousand gave their lives.

Fifty-four thousand were wounded.

Untold numbers came home scarred, not only in body, but also in mind. Some never recovered.

All who served were separated from their families and friends, their homes and livelihoods.

While the news on that fateful day 75 years ago heralded the start of war, newspaper headlines from each September 10th over the next six years paint a picture of the service, sacrifice and, ultimately, triumph of our brave countrymen and women, on land, at sea and in the air.

September 10, 1940: Bustling Army Camps Inspected By Defence Head.

1941: Canadian Rifle Regiment Reaches England.

1942: Churchill Lauds Canadian Heroism In Vital Raid on Dieppe.

1943: Canadian Army Tanks Roll Through Sicily.

1944: Canadians Reach Bruges In Drive to Holland.

And finally, September 10, 1945: Canucks Survive Hellhole As Hong Kong Heroes Freed.

For most of us, these headlines are the stuff of history, accounts of those who went before us. However, for a select group, these headlines are personal experiences and vivid memories.

Today, at many sites across our nation, Canadians are gathering to formally honour and salute these men and women for their selfless service and sacrifice during World War II. Thirteen of these veterans are with us here.

It is essential that we remember the horrors of war and the courage of those who serve in our armed forces.

By honouring, we are renewing our pledge as Canadians to uphold the values for which they fought and triumphed, and for which so many of their comrades made the ultimate sacrifice—the values of democracy, justice and freedom.

Friends and veterans, on behalf of all Canadians, all those who live in our free, just and democratic nation, I thank you. Seventy-five years after that fateful day, we are, and will forever remain, in your debt.

Thank you.