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Prime Minister's prepared address Add to ...

Prime Minister Stephen Harper addressed a dinner gala for military families Tuesday night in Toronto. What follows are his prepared remarks.

Mesdames et Messieurs, bonsoir. Good evening ladies and gentlemen.

First let me congratulate everyone who had a hand in putting together the inaugural True Patriot Love Gala Dinner I salute the organizers for their hard work and the sponsors for their generous support of the men and women of the Canadian Forces and their families.

Please give them a warm round of applause.

Des événements comme celui-ci - des manifestations publiques de soutien à nos militaires et à leurs familles - se multiplient au Canada depuis quelques années. En fait, l'appréciation publique de nos militaires est peut-être plus grande aujourd'hui qu'elle ne l'a été depuis la Deuxième Guerre mondiale.

Events like this - public expressions of support for our troops and their families - have flourished across Canada in recent years. In fact, public appreciation for our military may be higher today than at any time since the Second World War. I attended one of the first Red Friday rallies back in the fall of 2006. More than 10,000 people assembled in front of the Parliament buildings.

The vast Sea of Red was living proof of the powerful loyalty and love - the True Patriot Love - that Canadians have for our country and the people who defend it. We have seen that love and loyalty expressed in countless other ways by groups and individuals from coast to coast to coast. Through thousands of personal letters and gifts sent to our troops in Afghanistan, through generous donations to initiatives like the Military Families Fund, through spontaneous displays of respect and compassion such as the solemn vigils that occur along the Highway of Heroes when our fallen soldiers journey to their final resting place, and through rising attendance at annual Remembrance Day ceremonies in communities large and small right across Canada.

Indeed, a Historica-Dominion Institute survey, released this week, finds that 4.8 million Canadians plan to attend a ceremony this year, up from 4 million last year. such displays of affection and respect for our troops are part of who we are as a people.

We know in our hearts that we owe our freedom, democracy and prosperity to the millions of Canadians who have kept the True North strong and free for over two centuries. And that's why events like the True Patriot Love gala attract such tremendous support from loyal Canadians like everyone here tonight.

Le principal bénéficiaire de cet appel de fonds sera le Fonds pour les familles des militaires. Cette noble initiative,lancée par le Général Hillier en 2007, augmente le soutien institutionnel offert aux membres du service militaire et à leurs familles par les Forces canadiennes et le gouvernement du Canada.

The principal beneficiary of this fundraiser will be the Military Families Fund. This noble initiative, launched by General Hillier in 2007, augments the institutional supports provided to military servicemen and women and their families by the Canadian Forces and the Government of Canada. It is inspired by the recognition that the Canadian Forces are a family, not just of brothers and sisters in arms, but of wives and husbands, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, friends and neighbours - the vast network of Canadians who form the extended family of our men and women in uniform.

Napoleon famously said that an army marches on its stomach. No doubt that is true, but it succeeds on the strength of its morale. And the single most important source of strong morale is the love and support of the people back home.

I've heard this many times from our troops during my visits to Afghanistan, and to army, navy and air force bases in every part of Canada. I've heard it from injured soldiers, who say it was essential to their recovery. And I've heard it from the families of the fallen, who say it helped them cope with their unspeakable grief.

Despite the extreme dangers and enormous frustrations of the mission in Afghanistan, and despite the fact that we have been there almost as long as we were in the two world wars combined, our military commanders report that the morale of our troops remains high. They have no doubt that our cause is just and necessary, not only to combat and contain international terrorism, but to protect the long-suffering people of Afghanistan - especially women and girls - from enslavement by fanatics in an oppressive medieval gulag.

Nos militaires sont extrêmement fiers, et avec raison, de leur performance. Mais plus que toute autre chose, ils gardent le moral en sachant qu'ils bénéficient de l'amour et du soutien indéfectibles de leurs familles, de leurs amis et de leurs communautés, de leur gouvernement, et de leurs concitoyens.

Our troops are fiercely and justifiably proud of their performance, but more than anything else, their morale is sustained by the knowledge that they have the unequivocal love and support of their families, friends and communities, their Government, and their fellow Canadians.

I want to conclude with a story that illustrates all the themes I have touched on tonight. It is a story of courage, sacrifice, family, and true patriot love. It is the story of Master Corporal Jody Mitic, who lost both his legs to a landmine in Afghanistan on January 11, 2007, and of Sergeant Alannah Gilmore, the medic who tended his wounds on that fateful day.

The traumatic experience they shared bonded them for life. They have been together ever since, and today they are the proud parents of a beautiful one year old baby girl, and our two most honoured guests at the head table here tonight.

Would everyone please rise and join me in a toast to these Canadian heroes.

Jody and Alannah, on behalf of everyone here, and Canadians everywhere, you are an inspiration to us all, please accept our profound gratitude, for the sacrifices you have made, and for your True Patriot Love.

I salute you both with the official toast of Jody's Royal Canadian Regiment: Pro Patria!

Thank you very much.

Merci beaucoup.

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