OTTAWA – The text of the speech Gov Gen. David Johnston delivered Tuesday to mark Remembrance Day at the National War Memorial:
At the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month, when the guns of the Great War at last fell silent, the fury of conflict was replaced by a deafening silence. In that fragile gap between the sounds of dying and the cries of relief, we were faced with all we had done, all we had lost, all we had sacrificed.
In that silence, we met a truth so obvious and so terrifying we swore we would never take up arms again.
“One owes respect to the living,” said Voltaire. “To the dead, one owes only the truth.”
We vowed never to forget.
We built monuments — massive pillars of stone and metal — and placed them at the very heart of our towns and cities, so they might stop us daily in our tracks.
We collected names, wrote these names in books and carved them into walls in a constant effort to save those we failed from the faithlessness of anonymity.
And we pledged to gather in our communities each year at this hour on this singular day of Remembrance so that we might fall silent again … and again … and again.
Today, we stand as one in silent tribute — not only to keep the vow made long ago but also to rededicate this symbol of that promise. When King George VI unveiled our National War Memorial, he called it “the spontaneous response of the nation’s conscience, revealing the very soul of the nation.”
Look upward now, and against the sky see the bronze figures of Peace and Freedom. Their arms are linked. They cannot be separated. Because freedom without peace is agony, and peace without freedom is slavery, and we will tolerate neither. This is the truth we owe our dead.
And now look down, to the resting place of a Canadian boy who died at Vimy Ridge. We don’t know his name. He is our unknown soldier. In anonymity he honours all Canadians who died and may yet die for their country.
We will stand on guard for him and for them, as did Nathan Cirillo, who takes his place among them.
We will strive for peace and for freedom, as did Patrice Vincent, who joins them also.
As Governor General and commander-in-chief of Canada, I have the solemn privilege to stand with you and them today, just steps away from our houses of Parliament — where we resolve our differences through dialogue and the rule of law.
We are people of peace. Of respect and tolerance, kindness and honour. These qualities are alive in our national conscience precisely because we hold them as precious.
We have the luxury to do so because those we remember today believed those qualities to be precious enough to die for.
That is why we will keep those men and women in our memory. “Without memory,” said Rabbi Dow Marmur, “there can be neither continuity nor identity.”
We have had sombre occasion in past weeks to ponder our identity as the very symbols of our peace and freedom were violated.
And now here we stand, and here we shall remain: unshaken in resolve; grateful in remembrance of those who have sacrificed; rededicated, like this memorial, to our eternal duty: peace and freedom — the very soul of our nation.
Lest we forget!