Honourable senators, on November 11, I had the honour of representing Veterans Affairs Minister Greg Thompson at Remembrance Day ceremonies at both the Toronto Stock Exchange and at Queen's Park.
I realized, looking at the assembled crowd at the Queen's Park cenotaph, that my generation is the lucky one. We did not have to survive the Great Depression or either great wars; nevertheless, stories at family mealtimes gave me and so many others of my age a direct and real connection to these historical events.
Whether it was from my grandfather who flew in the Royal Flying Corps in 1915 telling us about the important roles First Nations snipers played in the trenches, or my father's tales as a young naval lieutenant on a Corvette hunting German submarines in the North Atlantic, these stories at family meals reinforced the concepts of heroism, selflessness, love of country and the importance of fighting for one's freedom.
What of future generations when there is no longer a living connection to events in the 20th century? Honourable senators, only 4 out of 10 Canadian provinces teach Canadian history in high schools.
If you have not read about Champlain's first settlement in Canada in Port Royal in 1605; if you have no idea who dismissed us as "quelques arpents de neige" at the end of the Seven Years' War and why the names of James Wolfe and the Marquis de Montcalm became forever linked on September 13, 1759; if you do not understand the hard-won compromise that our first Prime Minister, John A. Macdonald, wrought with the Fathers of Confederation in 1867, or the grit and endurance it took to open up the West, or that in 1881 the last spike of the Canadian Pacific Railway in B.C. linked us from Atlantic to Pacific forever, how can you possibly value and cherish this democracy of ours?
If young Canadians today are not taught the history of this great country, will they be prepared to defend us; to keep us "true north strong and free"; to protect our way of life, our shared values of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law? How will we keep the torch of remembrance burning bright if our history, our proud and valiant Canadian history, is not taught in schools in every province and territory? Lest we forget.