University of Toronto

Office of the
President

Remembrance Day Service at Soldiers’ Tower

Remembrance Day Service

On the morning of Friday, November 9, I had the privilege of attending the University of Toronto’s 88th Remembrance Day service at Soldiers’ Tower. As always, I was struck by the dignity of the event, the large turn-out, the wide participation of the estates of the University in the wreath-laying, and the evergreen messages conveyed by the ceremony.

In that latter regard, I was impressed by the salience of the welcoming words offered at the Service by David Platt, CD, Chair of the Soldiers’ Tower Committee. Major Platt reminded us that those who served – not least those who made the ultimate sacrifice – did so to safeguard core freedoms of our democracy, including, of course, our academic freedoms. He has kindly given me permission to reproduce the text below.

Words of Welcome, David Platt, Chair of the Soldiers’ Tower Committee

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the 88th Service of Remembrance at the now totally restored Soldiers’ Tower. This restoration work affirms the pledge made in 1919 when the cornerstone of the Tower was laid that the University of Toronto would always remember and honour its war dead. We are most grateful to our donors, including Facilities and Services, our masonry contractors, and our heritage architects. Thank you all very much.

Today, as we honour all those who died fighting in Canada’s wars we especially remember the 1,185 men and women of this university’s community who were killed in the First and Second World Wars and whose names are inscribed on our memorial walls.

It was through the sacrifices of all those who fought and especially of those who died that we continue to exercise and enjoy the freedoms and liberties of living in one of the world’s greatest democratic societies. Amongst these freedoms are:

  • • thought, expression and speech;
  • • of assembly and association;
  • • the right to hold or not hold religious belief;
  • • of a free judiciary and a free press;
  • • open and honest elections;
  • • the paramount Law of Habeas Corpus;
  • • and importantly for institutions such as ours, the freedom of intellectual discourse and academic and scientific research.

This is the debt we owe those we are honouring today.

We must never forget that. We must never forget them.

Today, we are fortunate to live in an era when armed conflicts occur at a reduced scale compared to the two world wars of the last century. More recent conflicts have sometimes lacked the moral clarity of earlier trans-national conflagrations. But it is useful, I think, to keep in mind that members of our armed forces serve the governments that we democratically elect. Without their past contributions and sacrifices, there would be no such governments for them to serve.