It was a beautiful day to pause and remember in our city.
I joined three services starting at the McCrae house, then off to the IODE cenotaph and finally to the Sleeman Centre. I thought I’d share my remarks with you below. Thank you Guelph for showing your support for our veterans and our current on duty soldiers abroad.
Today, we gather together to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to Canada.
We gather to pay tribute to those who returned home, but were never the same.
And we gather in gratitude and respect for all who served, and continue to serve our country in the Canadian Forces and Reserves.
This year was a very special one for Guelph, as we celebrated the 100th anniversary of In Flanders Fields.
There were many personal highlights for me throughout this year.
• The first was an event at the Guelph Civic Museum where we connected over Skype with a group at the In Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres, Belgium.
The Mayor of Ypres offered a message to the people of Guelph, saying, “Dear citizens of Guelph, we will not forget the words of your famous townsman. Those words will continue to inspire us to further efforts when striving for a better, and more peaceful world. If you ever come to Flanders Fields, do not forget to tell us where you are from.”
• Another highlight was when local veteran and former Member of Parliament William Winegard gave a reading of “In Flanders Fields” at a Council meeting. Dr. Winegard painted a picture of what John McCrae experienced on the battlefields of the First World War – including having to preside over the funeral of a dear friend and comrade. You could have heard a pin drop in Council Chambers that night.
• A third highlight came when the Governor General of Canada visited Guelph to unveil the statue of John McCrae at the Guelph Civic Museum, a statue that was made possible by an extraordinary local fundraising campaign.
The Governor General asked us to consider what John McCrae – a brilliant doctor – might have done in his life if he had not died so soon.
As we commemorated the 100th anniversary, I was grateful for the opportunity to learn about John McCrae – not just as a historical figure, but as a person who lived and breathed and grew up here in Guelph.
It was a powerful reminder that – for every name listed on our Cenotaph – there is a person and a story behind it. A person with family, friends, talents, dreams, and plans that were cut short far too soon.
They paid a heavy price to secure freedom and peace for the rest of us.
They paid a heavy price to ensure Canada is one of the most peaceful and prosperous countries in the world.
It is a privilege to honour them.