Prime Minister Trudeau delivers remarks at Juno Beach
Hello everyone. We are almost at the end of our stay in France, and I would just like to take a few minutes to look back on events over the last couple days. It was truly an honour for me to represent Canadians at celebrations for the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. It was a defining moment in our history, with Canadians from across the country fighting side‑by‑side.
The purpose of this trip was, of course, to commemorate the events of the First World War and the Battle of Vimy Ridge, but I’m pleased to be wrapping up our trip here at Juno Beach Centre. The men who fought in 1944 were carrying the legacy of those who risked their lives at Vimy Ridge in 1917. Our visit today was a chance for us to honour the 45,000 Canadians who lost their lives in the Second World War and reflect on the last 100 years of service.
Of course, a lot has changed in 100 years. Technological advances have completely transformed our world in many ways. Battlefield tactics have evolved, and it is not just men who are going to the front to defend their country. But there is one thing that has not changed, and that is the level of sacrifice that soldiers have made and continue to make when they choose to answer the call, and especially the sacrifice that is made by their entire family.
My great-grandmother, whom I remember visiting as a little kid at her house in Gibsons, B.C., before she died had lost her brother in World War I. My grandma would reminisce about the Uncle Charlie she had never met and how his death had left an empty space in her family and in her mom’s life. Lance Corporal Charles Ivens was born in Virden, Manitoba. He survived a gunshot wound to the face during the Battle of the Somme, missed Vimy Ridge while recovering but then returned to the front with a promotion, only to die at Passchendaele in November 2017, just a few weeks shy of his 29th birthday.
Two decades later, Jean‑Robert Grégoire joined Les Voltigeurs de Québec the day after his 18th birthday, in October 1939. He went from Valcartier to Brockville and Borden before arriving in England in 1943 with the rank of lieutenant. He landed here in Normandy, on D-Day, with Le Régiment de la Chaudière, but was killed near Caen a month later, on July 5, 1944. His nephew Jean, Sophie’s father, remembers all too well the family’s grief in the years following the death of their beloved Bobby.
These stories are not unique. They are family lore for millions of Canadians from towns and cities across our country, the stories of brave young men who fought, served and died. The stories of those who returned wounded, who would wear scars, visible and invisible, for the rest of their lives.
Each year, thousands of Canadians travel here and elsewhere in Europe to visit the battlefields of the two Great Wars, sharing their family history with their children, remembering the courage and the contributions and, above all, the sacrifices of those who served their country and defended its values.
On the tombstone of Lieutenant Jean-Robert Grégoire, which we will be visiting in a few minutes, there is a single sentence, chosen by his father:
“Be as courageous at home as we were on these battle fields.”
Of all the lessons that my son Xavier will have learned from these two remarkable days, I hope that his great-great-uncle’s sentence will stay with him, and with all of us, for a long time.