Honoured veterans; members of Canada’s Armed Forces and Reserves; cadets and scouts; emergency responders; ladies, gentlemen, and young people:
On behalf of the City of Guelph, I am extremely honoured to bring greetings on this day of remembrance.
Today, we gather together to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to Canada.
And we gather in gratitude and respect for all who served our country – and those who serve today – in the Canadian Forces.
I want to thank our local Legion for organizing an exceptional Remembrance Day service every year.
I believe Guelph has one of the best Remembrance Day services in the Province. Every year, I am moved and inspired by it.
It is incredible to look out and see so many in our community gathered together in remembrance.
I am always inspired by the sight of a sea of uniforms – proudly worn by veterans; current members of the Canadian Armed Forces; young people serving as cadets; and emergency response personnel.
And I am inspired by the sight of so many families here today. Especially with Remembrance Day falling on a Saturday this year.
As your Mayor, I believe it is important to honour veterans not only on Remembrance Day – but throughout the year.
A little over a year ago, I learned that the City would be reconstructing the pedestrian bridge over Norfolk Street near City Hall and the Farmer’s Market. I brought a motion to City Council asking staff to find a way to commemorate veterans through the design of the new bridge.
As I said at the time, the bridge has the opportunity to become a new landmark in our city – one that pays tribute to our veterans’ stories and inspires us all to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms.
My motion received overwhelming support from the public, and was unanimously supported by Council.
I am pleased to advise that the reconstructed Bridge will be re-named the Veterans Memorial Bridge, and visual elements will be incorporated into the design of this new bridge to honour and commemorate local veterans for years to come.
I have recently learned that, thanks to inquiries from community members and research from Guelph Museums staff, the City will be adding names of soldiers to the Roll of Honour on our cenotaph in early 2018.
I want to thank community members who submitted names of military personnel they believed to be missing from the cenotaph. Staff from Guelph Museums conducted research on each of the names submitted. From this research, we found that the names of 31 soldiers who served and died during the First and Second World Wars need to be added.
This year, when the parade marches past the cenotaph, I will think especially of those 31 people whose names will be added to the others.
Every name on our cenotaph represents a real person.
Someone like all of us. Someone who lived in Guelph, walked our streets, went to school here or worked a job here.
Someone who had parents, brothers or sisters, friends, a wife or a girlfriend.
Someone who, in many cases, was young and just getting started in life. Someone whose dreams were cut short far too soon.
And I will think about their family and loved ones – the people back home in Guelph who worried and prayed for their safe return.
I recently read some fascinating new information from local historian Ed Butts, who has done a great deal of work researching Guelph stories related to the First World War.
He explained that during the War, families in Guelph lived in dread of hearing a knock on the door – for fear it would be the telegraph office, delivering a telegram saying that your husband, son, brother or father had been killed.
It got to the point that neighbours in Guelph would actually avoid knocking on the door when they were coming to visit. They didn’t want to cause alarm. Instead, they would call out from the doorstep.
Think about that. The simple act of knocking on a neighbour’s door – something we all do without even thinking about it – was instantly associated with death and grief.
We gather today in remembrance of every one of those knocks on a door.
It is our sacred responsibility to remember the sacrifices made by those who served. Those who did not return. And those who did – but were forever changed by the experience.
Because of their sacrifices, we have the privilege of living in freedom and peace. We have the privilege of going about our lives and pursuing our dreams in one of the safest and most prosperous countries in the world.
Today, I join you in not only remembering those we lost – but in expressing our deepest gratitude for the freedom they secured for us.
On this solemn day of remembrance, we pay tribute to them. We honour them. And we pledge to always remember them.