In one of his last official acts before stepping down as B.C.’s Lieutenant Governor, Steven Point met with local veterans in Chilliwack Sunday to acknowledge their sacrifice and reflect on what that has meant to him.
Point, whose five-year tenure as lieutenant governor ends Thursday, was guest of honour at a luncheon at the Royal Canadian Legion’s Vedder branch.
Speaking to a hushed audience, he explained how his official duties have helped him better appreciate what Canadians have done in conflicts both past and present.
Twice he visited the Menin Gate in Belgium, where every evening at 8 p.m. traffic is stopped and a wreath is laid to honour the nearly 55,000 Commonwealth soldiers killed near Ypres during the First World War, but whose bodies were never found.
He said sacrifice takes on a new meaning when you seen rows of crosses marking unnamed graves, in a region where the remains of the fallen are still unearthed as farmers work the fields and new roads are built.
“You can’t help but be changed by the fact that thousands of young Canadians died, and never came home,” he said.
In Canada, it is easy to complain about the weather or the traffic. “I don’t complain anymore,” said Point, “because I have this vision in my mind of the stack of bones that are raised from the ground still to this day.”
Those sacrifices are not only a thing of the past, he stressed, referring to a funeral attended of a Canadian soldier killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. “That changes you, when you meet the family and see the picture of the young man.”
He said the challenge is to help young people understand what others have done – and continue to do – in order that they might lead better lives.
“How do we make them understand that Canada is a much different place because of the sacrifices of others?”
He said the veterans he has met have given him a new appreciation for the word “honorable.”
“I have never met a more honorable group of people,” he said. “I know that I have been changed into a better person because I have been introduced to these people.”
Point, who is a former B.C. Provincial Court judge, and former chief of the Skowkale First Nation in Chilliwack, ends his term as Lieutenant Governor on Nov. 1. He will be replaced by Judith Guichon.