What a proud time it is to be Canadian – in this our sesquicentennial year. And what could make us prouder than the Canadian athletes who are in Toronto competing for the Invictus Games? The Games, under the patronage of Prince Harry, are the largest international competition in the world featuring ill and injured soldiers from more than 17 nations.
Canadian soldiers have not always felt valued by the country they serve. Some time ago our agency created a sponsorship relationship on behalf of Wounded Warriors with one of our clients. And what an eye-opener that was — so many young men and women suffering from post-traumatic stress, without the support needed for recovery and re-entry into civilian life. These games do so much to bring a renewed sense of purpose and pride of achievement for soldiers who have lost their way.
Not too long ago I had an opportunity to visit Vimy – and it was only then that I began to understand what had been accomplished by thousands of young Canadian men one hundred years ago. It is a place that I think all Canadians should see. Standing at the trenches – just metres apart – and climbing the steep incline our soldiers pushed their way up to reach the ridge – vividly conveys their vulnerable position and the bravery it demanded of them. 2017 is not just our Sesquicentennial year – it also marked an anniversary for Vimy and there are many who believe this was the forging of our Canadian identity.
A few weeks ago I listened to a CBC documentary about Expo 67 when our national exuberance played out in a great birthday celebration that brought 50 million visitors from around the world to Montreal. And there are those who say this was our moment in the sun. But I would say that never in our time as a nation have Canadian values been more important than they are now. We’re not perfect by any means, but in the face of so much that is wrong in the world, we sure got a lot of things right. And this brings me to the men and women who carry these values and our tolerant open view of the world to places of active war and military tension as well as to peacekeeping missions – sharing our notions of cooperation and collective good.
They take with them a long tradition of valour and endurance shown on battlefields like Vimy. But also woven into their genetic code is the joie de vivre of that Expo fifty years ago. And these two tropes come together in the tradition of the Invictus Games. What the games tell us – and remind those participating – is that valour in war is one kind of bravery. What it takes to pick up and face challenge after a life-shattering experience is also a choice of great courage. And as the Invictus Games begin here in Toronto, we are all reminded of what it is to be courageous – to take joy in the agility of our minds and the vigour of our bodies, to embrace those Canadian values for endurance and pushing forward despite injuries and set-backs – the challenge of competition in the face of adversity – all those things are alive and well in our athletes and will be seen on the fields and courts during the competition.