The Hon. David C. Onley
The twentieth century saw Canadians volunteer to fight in the devastating conflicts of the First and Second World Wars and Korea. Over 115,000 of them gave their lives, an experience that has profoundly shaped our nation’s collective memory.
I have always been aware of the attributes of war, and increasingly so during my term as Lieutenant Governor.
My great uncle is buried in France, having died at the Somme in 1916. My father and father-in-law both served in the Royal Canadian Air Force in World War II. Several of my aides-de-camp have served in Afghanistan and I have had the sad honour of participating in Silver Cross presentations for Ontario soldiers killed in that conflict.
Although it has been over two centuries since a Lieutenant Governor of Ontario last commanded troops in battle, this office has always maintained close ties with our military. During times of war, Lieutenant Governors have personified the Crown’s unifying force and have inspired camaraderie and the determination to succeed. During peacetime, they have brought us together in remembrance and tribute of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
Many of my predecessors who served in the First and Second World Wars could readily relate to this role. Lieutenant Governors such as Henry Cockshutt, Herbert Bruce, John Keiller MacKay, W. Ross MacDonald, John Black Aird, and Lincoln Alexander all knew the realities of war. Their collective experiences—as doctors, soldiers, sailors, airmen and officers—were firsthand and personal and helped ensure that Ontarians would never lose sight of the impact of war on our society.
On the occasion of the centenary of the First World War, the Office of the Lieutenant Governor is hosting Lest We Forget, an exhibition of paintings by Charles Pachter, one of Canada’s leading contemporary artists.
Accompanying the exhibition is a collection of essays by a distinguished and diverse group of Canadians who reflect on the question “What have we learned from war?”
Their responses illustrate the complex and conflicting nature of war, its capacity to elicit our most destructive instincts, as well as our greatest examples of courage, heroism, and camaraderie.
I thank them for their contributions and salute all who have served.