British D-Day veterans watch a parachute drop by 450 men from 1st Battalion the Parachute Regiment and Canadian paratroops over the Ranville drop zone in Normandy in northern France, June 5, 2004. (Photo: STR New/Reuters)
This is an important year of Remembrance for Canada and the U.K. We have commemorated the 100th anniversaries of the battles of the Somme and Beaumont-Hamel, the 75th anniversary of the Atlantic Charter (negotiated in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland) and the 25th anniversary of the first Gulf War.
The U.K. has deep and strong ties with Canada. Our common history, language and culture bring us together. We share membership of NATO, the G8 and the Commonwealth. Canada is a trusted ally with whom the U.K. works to address the globe's most difficult security, defence and foreign policy challenges.
My family's history is evidence of these ties. My grandfathers and my wife's were both veterans of the Battle of Atlantic, including joint operations with the Royal Canadian Navy, and escorted supplies from Canadian ports to the U.K. One of the last remaining ships from the Second World War, HMCS Haida, is based in Hamilton and last year I visited her with my sons to better understand the conditions my grandparents experienced during those cold North Atlantic crossings.
Co-operation between Canada and the U.K. is as strong today as it was then.
My father was a submariner during the Cold War, with two strong connections to Canada. In the early 1980s, we hosted at our home in Plymouth a young Royal Canadian Navy exchange officer from Quebec. He was learning the inner workings of the diesel-electric submarine that the two navies shared, and I remember trying out my schoolboy French with him and learning about Quebec.
The second was a visit in the early 1980s, when my father's submarine, the HMS Opportune, visited Halifax, Nova Scotia. During that stay, one of my father's colleagues asked him if he could stay on in Canada: he had fallen in love with a Canadian and wanted to marry her. After getting approval from the captain, my father agreed. They lost touch over the years but, thanks to the Internet, I have managed to reunite them and we are making tentative plans for them to meet in Canada in person next year.
While I have not served, I worked closely with the Canadian military. In 2008 and 2009, I was posted to Helmand, Afghanistan. I saw firsthand the difference they and Canadian diplomats made for the Afghan people under difficult conditions in Kandahar. I travelled on Canadian Gryphon helicopters between bases to help the Government of Afghanistan deliver humanitarian and development assistance.
Co-operation between Canada and the U.K. is as strong today as it was then. Alberta hosts the British Army for regular exercises at its training centre in Suffield. In 2013, our militaries worked shoulder to shoulder in Sierra Leone to prevent the spread of Ebola and less than two months ago, the frigate HMS Monmouth participated in Canada's largest naval exercise in 20 years off the coast of Nova Scotia. Meanwhile on a less demanding note, I joined members of the U.K. military, High Commission and 12,000 other runners in this year's Ottawa Army Run to show our support for Canada's Armed Forces.
Canada and the U.K. will also compete at the 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto. Over 550 servicemen and women from 17 nations will compete over seven days in adaptive sports, including for the first time, sledge hockey. This will be an opportunity for us to be inspired by this generation of veterans as they overcome similar challenges faced by their predecessors such as life changing physical injuries or post traumatic stress disorder.
These are all reasons why, on Remembrance Day, my son Michael and I will join Canadians at the Ontario War Memorial at Queens Park to remember the fallen, the injured, those who served and those who continue to do so. We will reflect upon the shared sacrifices of our two nations, recalling the words of Laurence Binyon in his poem, "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."
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