“A year ago, we marked the 100th anniversary of the end of the Great War. This year’s centennial marks the beginning of the enduring tradition we now know as Remembrance Day.
“The end of the First World War was a cause for great celebration. Four years of industrialized slaughter, of unrelenting pain and suffering, of terror in the trenches and agonizing worry at home, was finally over. Of course, they celebrated. What joy and relief they must have felt!
“A year later though, the anniversary took on the solemnity that we know today – the two minutes of silence, the playing of the Last Post, the reading of Lt.-Col. John McCrae’s immortal tribute to the fallen.
“This transition from rejoicing to remembering reflects well on the victors. Lesser civilizations indulge themselves in victory, revelling in the destruction of their enemies. That is not our way. Canadians do not fight for conquest of land or treasure or domination.
“We go selflessly to defend the weak and bravely to uphold the higher ideals of humanity when evil threatens them. We are reluctant but resolute warriors. We know that war must be the last resort, fought only when a just peace depends on it. And when it is over, we grieve for the suffering on all sides, we pursue reconciliation, and we work for a lasting peace based on human dignity and freedom.
“This, I think, is one reason why we and our allies prevailed in the great 20th-century battles with militarism, fascism and communism: because our defence of western civilization was able to draw on our belief in the inalienable dignity of the human person. This gave us a strength – both in the clash of arms and the clash of ideas – that totalitarians could not match.
“On Remembrance Day, as we remember our glorious dead, we reaffirm the virtues for which they fought.
“The fact that 100 years on, Canadians today still join in this shared ritual of remembrance in as great or greater numbers than ever, speaks volumes about how strong and enduring those virtues are.
“Lest we forget.”