Presentation of Scrolls to New General and Flag Officers
Rideau Hall, Thursday, February 5, 2009
It is a privilege for me to be a part of the extended Canadian Forces family and to assume the responsibilities conferred upon me as commander-in-chief.
Working alongside our service women and men of every rank, from every regiment and every region across Canada, I have been able to put a face—a human face—on an institution that I once knew only by its role and mission.
Which makes the ceremonies over which I preside, where your work is recognized, all the more heartening; which makes the nature and scope of what you are doing all the more meaningful; and which makes the repatriation ceremonies at CFB Trenton, where I accompany grieving families, all the more painful.
Time and again, I have had the opportunity and honour to witness the depth of commitment, the determination and the sense of duty of the members of the Canadian Forces.
I recently returned from a working visit to Haiti, where Canada’s military women and men are working tirelessly in extremely difficult, yet encouraging, conditions alongside humanitarian organizations and as part of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti to help a country that has suffered so much.
Their objective is clear: to help the people of Haiti get back on their feet as they struggle under the weight of terrible hardships, the most recent being four hurricanes in four weeks last October that precipitated the devastation that would follow: human losses, homes and infrastructures completely destroyed, crops wiped out, in addition to an already serious food crisis gripping the country.
Thanks to an immediate response from generous officers, including many here today, help was dispatched without delay.
In particular, I would like to salute the wonderful team on board HMCS St. John’s who, for weeks, brought relief and supplies to the people living on the southern peninsula, who were completely cut off from the rest of the country.
The communities that I visited are forever grateful for all that they have done, and told me so with great emotion.
It was thanks to our soldiers, our Canadian police officers and MINUSTAH that I was able to travel through the country, to go where the needs are greatest, to the very heart of the realities that our Haitian brothers and sisters are experiencing. And it was thanks to their efforts that I was able to visit the north and south of the island, as well as its capital city, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them, in spite of the distance, in particular Colonel Martin Girard.
Both here at home and around the world, the role of the Canadian Forces is remarkable.
Whether bringing peace and stability to the world’s hot spots, helping populations struggling with natural disasters and humanitarian crises, or facing the harsh and painful reality of armed conflict.
And let us also remember all of the hard work of our Forces right here in Canada, which we don’t often hear about. Consider the many rescue operations at sea.
I know the kinds of pressure you are facing, you and your families who stand beside you. Repeated absences over extended periods of time. The worry, on both sides. The homecoming, often difficult after a mission.
Through the respect, support and love that your families have for you, they are also ensuring the success of the Forces and their missions in Canada and abroad. Let us remember that.
That is why today, I want to express to you and to your loved ones my sincere appreciation on behalf of your fellow citizens.
As you receive your scroll, you accept the responsibility of command.
It is a responsibility that requires you to serve as a role model to others, no matter what the circumstances.
I am counting on you to provide not only solid leadership, but also support for the men and women serving under you and for their families.
May the ideal of justice and freedom that you are pursuing continue to inspire your commitment. And may that ideal serve also to inspire your colleagues and the soldiers under your command.
As commander-in-chief, I wish you great success in this new stage in your career.
Rest assured that you have my profound gratitude and unwavering support.
You should be proud of this accomplishment.