November 9, 2023
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Before we begin, I would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe people who have lived on and cared for this land for thousands of years.
Welcome to Rideau Hall and congratulations to all those who have earned the Meritorious Service Decoration – Military Division.
This week is about remembrance.
It’s about remembering the losses we’ve suffered as a nation, and the success we’ve had in defending the values we hold dear.
While we take time to remember those who have sacrificed for our nation, we are also taking the time this week to celebrate and honour the ongoing contributions of Canadian Armed Forces’ members. We take pride in what you do. We’re here today to celebrate your achievements, as well as the comrades and family members standing by you, who all helped you to succeed.
You have each made extraordinary contributions to the Canadian Armed Forces and to our country.
What struck me as I was reading your citations was the diversity of your service. Some of you assisted during the COVID-19 pandemic in a variety of roles, others are being recognized for your achievements while serving alongside our allies in NATO. All of you have unique experiences, and have been called on to serve Canada in different ways.
Today we are recognizing your contributions to the security of Canadians and our allies.
Not many know the full breadth of what members of the Canadian Armed Forces—all of you—do for our country, day-to-day. You are able to pivot so quickly to overcome any challenge you face, especially in an emergency. It’s impossible to train for every scenario. But, time and again, you demonstrate adaptability and creativity, always reaching for and achieving a new level of excellence.
Every moment I’m able to spend with members in uniform is valuable. I’m able to see what they do, learn from them and take inspiration from their professionalism first-hand. And I’m able to learn their stories and honour them for their excellence, just as we’re doing here today.
In the past year, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Army, Air Force and Navy bases, as well as to honour Rangers and reservists. It was wonderful to see demonstrations of what you do on a daily basis, and to be inspired by the spirit of innovation in all that you do.
I have seen your dedicated service to the Canadian Armed Forces and to Canada first hand, and admire how you support each other through very difficult circumstances. You represent our country with honour, while exemplifying the military values of loyalty, integrity, courage, excellence, inclusion and accountability.
I recognize that what you do is not easy. Often you are away from family and friends for months on end. You may be called on to face danger, or you may be exposed to disturbing or troubling events.
It can have a direct effect on your mental health.
I encourage all of you to be leaders in mental health, not only in sharing your own stories, but also in listening to the stories of colleagues or of those under your leadership. Peer support is so important when it comes to mental health, and it’s important to hear about, learn from and recognize these struggles so we can better build the support systems needed.
Speaking of support systems, I want to acknowledge and applaud all the families here with us, because they also sacrifice, and they also contribute to the success of the CAF.
They also face challenges. They may have to relocate; they may be separated from loved ones for prolonged periods; and they, too, may have to assume an elevated level of risk.
These challenges are often faced silently and out of the public eye. Yet, it is no less important than service in the field, on the sea or in the air. Even as we recognize meritorious service, let us not forget that military families also deserve our recognition and our gratitude for their support.
I encourage all of us to take this moment … to pause in this moment … so that we can reflect on your accomplishments. I encourage you to look around you. Look at the great company you are keeping today. You are all worthy of celebration.
Let me take this opportunity, as commander-in-chief, to thank you for all you do on behalf of our country, and to congratulate you on receiving this award.