Unveiling of a Statue in Memory of General the Right Honourable Georges P. Vanier
The Citadelle, Friday, October 17, 2014
It is a great honour to participate in the unveiling of this statue of General the Right Honourable Georges P. Vanier.
General Vanier truly was a great Canadian. He dedicated his life to this country, and throughout his long and eventful career he and his beloved wife Pauline strengthened Canada in countless ways.
It is so appropriate to see this statue placed here at the Citadelle, official vice-regal residence, home of the Royal 22e Régiment, and one of the most historically significant sites in Canada.
Besides being the first French-Canadian governor general of Canada, General Vanier was a founding member of the 22nd Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, the battalion that of course later became the famous Royal 22e Régiment—or the Van Doos, as they are known.
When I think of the elements that make for a successful nation, I often think of General Vanier’s emphasis on service and duty.
“If Canada is to attain the greatness worthy of it, each of us must say, ‘I ask only to serve.’”
These are timeless and true words, which helps explain why we are here today honouring General Vanier in bronze—a material made to last through the ages.
General Vanier’s life and career provide us with so many inspiring examples to draw from, but perhaps the most inspiring was his extraordinary ability to overcome adversity.
I often quote General Vanier in speeches, and every year I have the privilege of presenting the Vanier Medal for public service in his name, but what I don’t often mention is that he was seriously wounded in the field of battle.
He lost his right leg during the First World War while leading an attack in northern France.
The year was 1918. He was 30 years old.
Despite the injury, General Vanier continued to serve Canada—first as an aide-de-camp to Lord Byng, later as ambassador to France, and eventually as this country’s 19th governor general and commander-in-chief.
He also suffered from a heart condition throughout his life, and yet he persevered, supported by his family, his faith and his love for Canada.
Throughout his life he was driven by what biographer Mary Frances Coady called “an inner quality of the spirit.”
He was a great supporter of young people, of bilingualism, of the family, of Canadian unity, of sports and physical fitness, of diplomacy, the arts and business.
He was passionately interested in visiting the towns, cities and landscapes of Canada, and perhaps most important of all, he was renowned for his kindness to those he met.
I would like to congratulate the artist, Madame Johanne Lafond, on this impressive sculpture, and I thank all those who played a role in bringing this project to fruition.
The life of General Vanier is a beacon to inspire us all to greater heights. It is my hope that this statue gives new life to the memory of a truly remarkable Canadian.