MP Report by Jay Hill, M.P.
Lest We Forget Our Fallen … and our Injured
Typically, after dark, Ottawa’s downtown streets are practically deserted. It’s a government town after all, not a party town. However, each night throughout the past week, as the sun went down and the Peace Tower was cast into shadow, scores of figures could be seen solemnly making their way towards the National War Memorial across Wellington Street.
City residents and tourists alike embarked on a pilgrimage to witness one of the most moving tributes to Canada’s war dead ever envisioned. Many stayed throughout the night until dawn. Others came and went through the wee hours of the morning. All in silent gratitude to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation in the First World War.
Throughout Remembrance Week, the names of 68,142 Canadians killed in the First World War were illuminated on the front of the National War Memorial. The “1914-1918 Vigil” was the creation of Ottawa lighting designer Martin Conboy and actor/director R.H. Thomson.
Fittingly as we commemorate the 90th Anniversary of the end of the First World War, this project was conceived as a means to not only honour those who died but to symbolically repatriate those buried overseas where they fell.
A website even allowed Canadians to find information about their WWI veteran and told them the night their name would be projected on the war memorial. And so, sons and daughters, grandchildren, great grandchildren, great nephews and nieces were able to proudly stand before the monument and watch the name of their fallen ancestor light up on the granite.
Personally, I feel that the Order of Canada was designed to honour the type of individuals who conceive such initiatives and I hope that Canadians will urge that this award be bestowed upon R. H. Thomson and Martin Conboy for the 1914-1918 Vigil.
In communities across Prince George-Peace River on November 11th, residents gathered to pay their own tribute to Canada’s fallen and to those who continue to serve our nation. Unfortunately, my new role as Government House Leader required that I remain in Ottawa to assist the Prime Minister as we prepare for the opening of Parliament next week.
However, my mother was honoured to lay a wreath on my behalf at the Remembrance Day ceremony in Taylor, the town where she grew up. As Taylor celebrates its 50th Anniversary of incorporation, this year’s service was especially poignant with representation from the 4 Canadian Ranger Patrol Group. One of my staff members also laid a wreath on behalf of the Government of Canada in McBride.
On a personal note, I found it particularly heartening this year to observe that something positive has arisen amid the horrific casualties and injuries our troops have incurred in Afghanistan. While Canadians across the land honoured our war dead, there was also a heightened recognition for those who’ve suffered debilitating injuries.
This sentiment was best summed up by Ottawa journalist Don Martin: “While a death devastates the next of kin, severe battlefield disabilities impose a life sentence on the soldier.”
Lest we forget their sacrifice and that of every man and woman who has ever served our nation in uniform.