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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: 

Mr. Minister, as you well realize, there is not a single day that this chamber sits without thinking of those who sacrificed their lives. As you can see from the eight paintings that decorate the chamber, we are, on a daily basis, called upon to think about and remember those who sacrificed their lives for freedom and for the kind of lifestyle we have in Canada and that we share with some of the world’s countries.

Later this year, in November, we will be commemorating the one hundredth anniversary of the end of the First World War. What initiative is your department contemplating to make sure that younger Canadians are made aware of the sacrifice of their forefathers, and how will the Senate be associated in that commemoration so that we can achieve the beauty of remembrance that we all share?

Hon. Seamus O’Regan, P.C., M.P., Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence: Honourable senator, I know that I will be travelling to France in July, and I will be travelling to Belgium in November for the armistice. I can give you greater detail on how exactly those commemorations will unfold.

I will say this about the involvement of young people. When I travel, I speak at schools. I think all of us have probably picked up on this ourselves: It amazes me how much more involved they are now and in a much more human way than when I was a boy. The common tactic now, to really emotionally involve and to give young people and students a true sense of the sacrifice, is to get to know an individual soldier. They research these people, the singular man — usually a man — over the course of their school year, and then at one particular grade later on, some of them get to travel, and they get to visit the gravestone. It is a very emotional moment for them, because they get to understand the soldier, the family, the sacrifice and the fact that they were people with interests and loves and lives.

I think back to my history books. It was General So-and-So did this, and Major So-and-So did that. It’s not to take away from their contributions, but this is something altogether different, and our commemoration department does a very good job on that.

I expect they will hold the same high standard on these two events that I will be attending and others throughout the country, but I would be happy to give you more information.