Wreath-Laying Ceremony at the Canadian War Cemetery
Adegem, Belgium, Tuesday, October 28, 2014
I am humbled and deeply moved to visit the final resting place of so many Canadians who died in the liberation of Belgium, 70 years ago.
From October until the beginning of November, 1944, the 3rd Canadian Division, the 4th Canadian Armoured Division and the 52nd Division took part in operations along the River Scheldt. The objective was to clear access to the Port of Antwerp.
Historians have called the Battle of the Scheldt the most important event in the liberation of Belgium. The fighting was fierce, and the losses were heavy. The Belgian resistance aided the Canadian troops a great deal.
Most of the 848 Canadians who are buried in this cemetery were killed in that battle. A number of Canadian airmen who died in action elsewhere are also interred here, as are a number of British and Polish soldiers who we also remember.
The bravery and sacrifices of those who fought in this region were central to the outcome of the larger struggle against occupation. I am delighted that one of them, Canadian Second World War Veteran Sidney Cole, is among us.
This part of Belgium, its waterways, landscapes and communities will always hold a prominent place in the hearts of Canadians.
I would like to extend a special thank you to Maldegem and all other municipalities, people and organizations here in Belgium that steadfastly honour the sacrifices of the fallen. You help to maintain and strengthen the ties that exist between our two countries.
Your remembrance and your friendship means a great deal to our veterans, to the families of those who served, and to our country.
Out of the horrors of the Second World War grew a lasting friendship between the people of Canada and of Belgium. This is the one of the most precious gifts to emerge from those extremely difficult days.
To this day, Canadians are welcomed in Belgium and are made to feel at home here. My wife, Sharon, and I, as well as the members of our delegation from Canada, are pleased to help renew our friendship with this visit.
As was the case 70 years ago, Canada and Belgium are great friends and partners today, and the liberation is an important part of our story.
The value of life and of freedom is held precious by the people of this country. And the same can be said of the people of Canada in light of the recent events that took place in Canada during which 3 soldiers were taken down. My wife and I were shocked and deeply saddened and we mourn the losses of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Corporal Nathan Cirillo, and extend our sincerest condolences to their families and friends. And we wish a speedy recovery to the injured soldier.
Let us honour the sacrifices of those who fought and died here by always remembering our veterans and their families. We owe them a great debt.
And let us all commit to working together for a more just and peaceful world.