Postscript: Why we remember
Published Friday, November 9, 2012 11:24AM EST
Last Updated Friday, November 9, 2012 12:38PM EST
It’s something every Canadian should do once in their life, or something every Canadian should at least know about.
I felt privileged this year to finally be able to visit Vimy Ridge in Northern France.
It was an impossibly clear day with the sun shining so brightly on the monument and on rows of graves--a far cry from the cold and snow and rain that our soldiers endured in April 1917.
To say it was moving falls terribly short.
There was something timeless about Vimy.
Even in the silence the sound of war and sacrifice still echoes all these years later.
The battle at Vimy Ridge was considered by many to be a turning point in the Great War.
It was indeed a turning point for our country.
For the first time ever, all four divisions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force fought on the same battlefield.
Brothers in arms
The conditions were awful.
For days the Canadians huddled in tunnels awaiting the orders to attack.
The trenches between Canadian and German lines were no more than metres apart.
By the afternoon of April 9, 1917, the German front lines had been taken.
By April 12, Canadians had driven the Germans back and had taken control of the ridge.
The German line had been breached.
Victory came with terrible cost
3,598 Canadians died and another 7,000 were wounded in the battle, many of them killed while storming German artillery in certain suicide missions.
Hill 145, the high point of the Ridge, and where the monument now stands, was captured in a frontal charge against machine-gunfire and today it towers over the French countryside in tribute.
So why does this matter 95 years later?
Why should we wear poppies?
Because Canadian blood was shed at Vimy and in countless other battles in the First and Second World Wars and in other far-off places.
74 countries have Canadian war graves.
It’s important because so many others gave so much so I can stand up here every week and give my opinions and because you can disagree with them. And because I won’t get arrested for saying them
They died so that we live in freedom from fear.
Freedom from knocks on the door in the middle of the night.
It’s about a promise, a promise we fulfill each and every November 11th.
A promise to the dead.
A promise never to forget.
Never forget the sacrifice, the courage and the valour.
It’s what we owe, and what we will always remember.
That is our covenant.
That is why we wear the poppy.