1914-1918 In Memoriam

July 31, 2014

Your Honours, Chancellor Wilson, Mr. Goldring, Professor MacMillan, General Lawson, Brigadier General Fletcher, members and veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces, ladies and gentlemen: Welcome, and thank you for joining us in this gathering in memory of the Great War, as we mark the centenary of its beginning.

On behalf of the University of Toronto, I would like to thank the Munk School of Global Affairs and the Bill Graham Centre for Contemporary International History, for organizing this event, and the Canadian Armed Forces for their support. I offer special thanks to the organizing committee, and in particular its chair, Blake Goldring, whose vision for this evening is now wonderfully realized. And I would like to acknowledge and thank Brian Stewart, not only for his outstanding service as our Master of Ceremonies, but also for being the catalyst of the past year’s series of events commemorating the War, culminating in this gathering.

Ladies and gentlemen, visitors to this campus are struck by its marvellous buildings, old and new. Invariably they pause at a uniquely dignified landmark, at the heart of it all. The Soldiers’ Tower was built by the University of Toronto Alumni Association as a monument to the members of the University community who gave their lives for our freedom, in the war to end all wars. It is maintained with great dedication by the Soldiers’ Tower Committee of the UTAA.

The Tower’s enduring significance is abundantly clear, in the addition, a generation later, of the names of the University’s fallen in the Second World War; and in the large, solemn gatherings at its base, each year on the 11th of November. Indeed it is a most fitting memorial.

Canada was profoundly affected by the war that gave rise to the Tower; and so too was this university: from the prominent role on campus, over decades, of the Canadian Officers Training Corps… to the acceleration of the University’s research capabilities, and the development of the Connaught Laboratories, which produced vaccines and anti-toxins for the Canadian Expeditionary Forces… to the work and the sacrifices of every member of the University – men and women, faculty, staff, students, and alumni… to the heroes of different kinds who emerged – Harold Innis, who was wounded at Vimy Ridge; Victoria Cross recipient Thain MacDowell; John McCrea; and Dr. Norman Bethune, among many others.

Our presenters this evening will enlighten us on the broader significance of the First World War. For my part, I offer this thought on what it means for this university. Simply, the record I have sketched provides a singular example of our engagement in the world, of our commitment to helping meet its most profound and pressing challenges. And that record will remain a deep source of inspiration in our teaching and research missions, for every generation.

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.