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Centennial Commemoration of First World War Armistice

Centennial Commemoration of First World War Armistice

Centennial Commemoration of First World War Armistice

Hon. Serge Joyal: 

Honourable senators, Sunday, November 11, is the Centennial of the Armistice of the First World War, the war of 1914-18. That war saw the birth of an independent Canadian Army of over 630,000 fighters, an army that was built from scratch in a few months, an army that simply did not exist on August 4, 1914, when war was declared.

The Centennial of the Armistice, next Sunday, should be the occasion to reflect on the last 100 days of the war, a period of exceptional bravery but also of tragic loss. During these 100 days, more than 45,000 Canadians lost their lives, equivalent to 20 per cent of all the Canadian casualties of the four years of the war.

The effort by the Canadian Forces during these 100 days involved 100,000 soldiers, the medical group with 3,000 nurses, and more than 20,000 horses. Each kilometre gained to push back the German army from France and Belgium left thousands dead and as many families to cope with the loss of loved ones.

During those three months, the Canadian Forces liberated the town of Amiens using new equipment, the tank. Without those iron horses, the German line would never have been broken. The Canadian soldiers then advanced to the city of Arras, a jewel of medieval and classical architecture, that was almost wiped out. Look above my head, in that painting, what is left of the cathedral. They pushed to free the town of Cambrai, and finally they reached the city of Mons in Belgium on the 11th day of November 1918.

The Canadian War Museum inaugurated last week an exhibition on that crucial period of the war, an illustration of the incomparable violence of the fighting and the tragedy of lost lives. You should visit it.

We cannot remember these events without appreciating the scale of the human catastrophe that was the Great War of 1914-18: 10 million dead and 20 million wounded on both sides of the conflict, millions of grieving families, widows and orphans.

We must commemorate our victories, but we must never forget the blood that was spilled to win them.

Honourable senators, I had the privilege of being one of the authors of a book recently launched by the Vimy Foundation, in English and French, titled They Fought in Colour, published by Dundurn Press in Toronto. Among the authors are historians Tim Cook, Charlotte Gray, the Paralympic athlete and activist Rick Hansen and the well-known writer Margaret Atwood. The book, in an album format, is simply stunning with more than 100 photos, most of them never before published.

The Vimy Foundation was established in 2006, with the mission to preserve and promote Canada’s First World War legacy, best symbolized by the victory at Vimy Ridge in 1917.

Honourable senators, may I invite you to look at that book? If you have a chance to offer it to a young boy or girl in your family or friends, they will learn of the sacrifice of those who fought for our freedom, to understand that peace remains fragile and that wars continue to ravage countries that were involved in the Great War 100 years ago. Thank you, honourable senators.