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Premier's Remarks To The Legislature On The End Of An Era

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Premier's Remarks To The Legislature On The End Of An Era

Office of the Premier

I rise in the House today to pay tribute to John Babcock, Canada's last veteran of the First World War, who died last month and to honour all the men and women who served in that conflict.

Mr. Speaker, John Babcock, born in 1900 on a farm near Kingston, was humble about his place in history.

He enlisted as a teenager, ready to serve his country.

He didn't see action on the battlefield, but served with those who did.

He was our last witness to what people hoped would be the "War to End All Wars."

And with Mr. Babcock's passing, that war passes from living memory into the pages of history.

All of us -- the generations who followed those brave men and women -- are now the custodians of that history.

We have a duty to perform -- a duty to remember the bravery of 650,000 Canadians who served in the First World War.

And a duty to remember the sacrifice of the 68,000 soldiers who never returned from that war.

Mr. Speaker, the world was a very different place in 1914.

The era of empires was ending and new nations were coming of age.

Nations like Canada.

And for the people of our great nation, it was on the battlefields of the Somme and Ypres and Vimy Ridge, that in a real sense, for the first time, we were not merely defined by the countries of our ancestry -- but by the place we all called home.

Canada.

We became Canadians.

First.

Foremost.
And forever.

In the trenches, old differences passed away and a new nation was born.

One with values taught to us by our young soldiers.

We became a country that fights for freedom -- here, and around the world.

We became a country that is diverse -- but never divided.

We became a country that is strong -- because when push comes to shove we work together.

And we build together.

Knowing deep down, we are all in this together.

Mr. Speaker, what endures most, is not the ground those young Canadian soldiers captured over there.

But the gains they made for us here.

Not who they fought against.

But what they fought for.

A country we call the best in the world, today -- because nearly 100 years ago, we gave our best to the world.

We must remember this history of ours.

We must teach our children about it.

And we will, Mr. Speaker.

It will be taught in our classrooms.

It will carry on.

As it has for 100 years in the Cadet Organizations of Canada.

And, above all, it will live on in how each of us daily chooses to honour and serve and defend this great country and the foundation of freedom and democracy upon which it is built.

And Mr. Speaker, we're joined today by six cadets.

I'd like to thank them for being with us today.

Mr. Speaker, on April 9, as Canadians honour our victory at Vimy Ridge, the federal government will hold a ceremony to mark the end of an era and the passing of our last veteran of the Great War.

We are commemorating the end of that era by welcoming Ontarians to sign a Book of Reflection here at Queen's Park or online.

My hope is that people across Ontario will pause, take a moment from their busy lives and give thanks for the freedom and peace we enjoy today.

As the English poet Laurence Binyon wrote for the fallen:

"They shall grow not old

As we that are left grow old;

Age shall not weary them.

Nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun,

And in the morning,

We will remember them."

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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