20th Annual Senate Remembrance Ceremony

By Richard Lawrence

Senate Remembrance Ceremony 2017

On Friday, 3rd November, 2017, the Senate of Canada held its 20th Annual Ceremony of Remembrance in the Senate Chambers of the Parliament Buildings.  The official party consisted of the Speaker of the Senate, the Honourable George Furey, the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Honourable Geoff Regan, and the Parliamentary Secretary for Veterans Affairs, the Honourable Sherry Romanado, who stood in for the Minister of Veterans Affairs, the Honourable Seamus O’Regan, who was sidelined with a health issue that was “serious but not life threatening”.

While the speakers today largely focused on the Great War battle of Passchendaele, marking the 100th Anniversary of this battle and the Canadian losses from it, Speaker Furey also remarked that it was the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Dieppe, one of the bloodiest battles in World War II for Canadians.  Speaker Regan took another direction and provided an eloquent history of the Memorial Chamber in the Peace Tower and how architect John A. Pearson visited the various battlefields in France and Britain to collect stone for its construction.  He noted that the main altar, the “heart of the chamber”, was a gift from Great Britain and that the cap badges of many Canadian regiments are carved into the stone walls of the chamber. 

Of particular interest was the fact that Pearson had originally intended to have all the names of the war dead engraved into the walls of the Chamber but that became impossible as the numbers of dead, over 66,000, continued to mount.  Instead it lead to the First World War Book of Remembrance, which sits upon the altar in the Chamber and to which six other Books of Remembrance of war dead, from the Nile to Korea to present day, sit on other altars, pages turned each day at 1100 hours.  As Speaker Regan noted, “it was not possible to return the remains of all the fallen for burial in Canada” but Pearson got his wish “… to provide Canadians with a way to honour those lost and a place on Canadian soil to mourn them.”.