We remembered our veterans Friday — as we should all year not just Nov. 11 — but today, I want to share a letter Geoff Regan, Speaker of the House of Commons, wrote to MPs about the history of the Memorial Chamber in the Peace Tower.
Speaker Regan wrote:
"On the morning of Nov. 3 when the original Centre Block was destroyed in the fire of 1916, Canada was in the midst of the First World War.
"Construction of the new Centre Block began almost immediately, and its architect John A. Pearson designed it to be a call to parliamentarians to remember that, in a time of war, they had been chosen to represent Canadians, and that they were duty-bound to live up to that honour.
"Four years later, the House of Commons would meet again on Parliament Hill, in a building still not completely finished, and by the end of the war, a plan was put in place for the construction of the Peace Tower, dedicated to the fallen of the First World War.
"At its heart, the Peace Tower houses the Memorial Chamber, a space of remembrance and reverence that pays tribute to the sacrifices of Canadians, the cost of peace and a legacy of hope.
"It is unlike any other space in Centre Block, as the stone used for its floor and walls comes directly from Belgium and France. The stone for the altar upon which the First World War Book of Remembrance is displayed comes as a gift from Great Britain.
"In the Books of Remembrance are set down the names of all those that we have lost. Their pages are turned every morning at eleven o'clock in a solemn ceremony, which allows for each page in each Book to appear at least once in the course of the year.”
As a veteran, it is a deeply moving experience to visit the Memorial Chamber to reflect, remember and to honour those who never returned.
The seven Books of Remembrance commemorate the lives of more than 118,000 Canadians who, since Confederation, have made the ultimate sacrifice while serving our country in uniform.
For those unable to travel to Ottawa, the names inscribed in the Books of Remembrance can also be found in the Canadian Virtual War Memorial at www.veterans.gc.ca and family members are welcome to contribute digital files that will help tell the story of each of the deceased.
The passing of remembrance to younger generations is a sign of “keeping the faith with all who died.”
Whether we pin a red poppy to our lapels, or light a candle for a Canadian soldier, our acts of remembrance and our commitment to remember is our ongoing tribute.
On Nov. 11, I hope you remembered the 1.5 million brave Canadians who served and continue to serve our country at home and abroad and the more than 118,000 men and women who died so that we may live in peace and freedom.
They were young, as we are young,
They served, giving freely of themselves.
To them, we pledge, amid the winds of time,
To carry their torch and never forget.
We will remember them.
Stephen Fuhr is the member of Parliament for Kelowna-Lake Country.