27 July 2011
Thank you very much, Lieutenant-Colonel James Martin, for that kind introduction. Thanks also to President John Bishop and everyone from the Korean Veterans Association of Canada. Greetings to Consul General Ji-in Hong, to Lieutenant Governor David Onley, Brampton Councillor Sandra Hame, Minister Stephen Blaney, our local MP here in Brampton West, Kyle Seeback, and to all the many MPs and senators who have come today to show support for our Korean War veterans.
We are here today to remember Canadians who fought for democracy in the Korean War.
If I can begin with a personal reflection, on my first visit to Korea, I had the privilege of visiting the national cemetery. I also saw the joint security area and the demilitarized zone. For me, these things were important reminders both of the sacrifices made by our Canadian Armed Forces and the communist tyranny which they fought against. All Canadians should take pride in our veterans of Korea.
For too many years, Korean... Korea was called "the forgotten war", but times are finally changing, thanks in part, I should say, to people such as Senator Yonah Martin, who worked hard to see that the Senate of Canada declared this day to be National Korea War Veterans Day.
As well, Minister Blaney will soon announce that our government is supporting the Historica Dominion Institute’s Memory Project: Stories of the Korean War. This will provide every living Korean veteran with the opportunity to share their memories. Our Canadian veterans of Korea have a story that must be shared with future generations.
Canada’s engagement began on July 12th
, 1950. On that day, three Canadian destroyers, the first of eight, were deployed into Korean waters. An RCAF transport squadron followed, as well as 22 fighter pilots. The first ground troops of the Canadian Army Special Force were deployed later that year.
Many and noble were their deeds. However, the defence of the Kapyong Valley, the road chosen by the North Koreans and their Chinese allies to attack Seoul stands out, exactly 60 years later, as the defining battle for Canadians. Dug in on hill 677, the second battalion of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry were outnumbered more than three to one. For more than 24 unbroken hours, there was intense hand-to-hand fighting and unimaginable bravery everywhere on hill 677 as Chinese infantry broke over them in what has been described as human waves. By the end of the day, the hill was completely cut off, surrounded, but when the smoke cleared, the Canadians had held. The communist invasion would go no further. Seoul was saved, and the stage was set for the UN counterattack that drove the invasion back over the 38th
During the Korean War the famous Royal 22e
Regiment expanded to three battalions. Each served a turn as part of the Canadian brigade in the First Commonwealth Division in Korea.
Canada - then and now – was the courageous warrior and the compassionate neighbour. Time does not permit me to refer to the exploits of every Canadian unit whose blood was shed on the hills of Korea. But of the 27,000 Canadians who served there, 516 made the ultimate sacrifice. Many lie buried in Korean soil. And so, with due acknowledgement to Rupert Brook, we may truly say that "there is some corner of a foreign field that is forever Canada".
These Canadians’ sacrifice is deeply interwoven with the story of South Korea’s remarkable ascent from one of the world’s poorest countries to one of its most dynamic.
And through decades of immigration, Koreans have come here to make enormous contributions to Canada. So let us remember with pride all of those brave Canadians who served in the Korean War. Let us celebrate their triumph, this victory of freedom over tyranny, and may God keep our own land glorious and free.