Governor General pays tribute to Canadian veterans in New Year's message
TORONTO -- Gov. Gen. Julie Payette is reflecting on the country's military history in her annual New Year's message to Canadians.
In her annual New Year's message, the governor general said seeing Canadian war cemeteries in France, Holland and Italy earlier this year to mark the 75th anniversary of the Second World War forced her to think about the "meaning of life."
"As I watched our veterans -- these brave soldiers from another era -- walking amongst the graves of their fallen comrades, I could not help but be moved," Payette said in a video message released Friday.
"Many had died before their 20th birthday. Some had died just before Christmas. All died in a distant land, far away from home."
Payette spoke while jogging on the grounds of the Mackenzie King Estate in Gatineau Park in Quebec in a move to encourage Canadians to get outside and enjoy the snowy weather.
During the winter months, she said Canadians "tend to cuddle inside and seek warmth… But once outside, it is so worth it."
Since becoming governor general, Payette has foregone the formal backdrops traditionally used in end-of-year messages, opting for an ice skating rink in 2017 and cross-country ski trails in 2018.
"Whether you were born here or chose to come and live here. Whether you're just passing through or came here to seek refuge. This is your country -- a land of breathtaking beauty that deserves to be explored and celebrated -- rain or snow or shine," said Payette.
In this year's address, the governor general paid tribute to Indigenous people as "those who taught us to survive in the cold, to appreciate the gift of nature, and the importance of community."
She also highlighted the country's diversity and said Canadians should be proud to be globally recognized as "team players, peace seekers, [and] peacekeepers."
She pointed to commemorations of the shooting at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique and the Rwandan genocide as reminders to stand up against hate and work together for the common good.
"I hope that you're staying active, and that you are lending a hand, in your own personal way, to those who have less and those who are in need," she said.