To commemorate the attacks of September 11, the Consulate General of Canada in New York held a week’s worth of events – featuring visits by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence – that reaffirmed Canada as a staunch American ally and underscored the close friendship between the two countries’ citizens.
Prime Minister Harper was the keynote speaker at a public anniversary memorial concert at The British Garden at Hanover Square in New York. This year, for the first time, 9/11 victims from Canada and Australia were memorialized at The British Garden, which will be renamed for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to reflect this change. Victims from other Commonwealth countries will be honoured accordingly in due course. Embracing Canada’s global leadership role on security and defence issues, the Prime Minister not only shared in the grief of all those who lost loved ones, but also honoured past, current, and ongoing acts of courage. The concert, which featured performances by police bands and choirs from the United Kingdom, drew guests from the families of Canadian, British, and Australian victims and was attended by a contingent of Canadian law enforcement officers and first responders.
“While we honour and remember those who fell,” the Prime Minister said in a commemorative statement, “we will continue to stand firm with our allies to help ensure such a tragedy never happens again. Terrorism will not undermine our way of life.”
“We will steadfastly defend, protect and promote our democratic values and principles; the very foundation of our free and prosperous society. It is what the victims would expect and what the families deserve.”
One day prior to the memorial concert at the British Garden, the Prime Minister and Mrs. Harper participated in a private evening reception for the families of Canadian victims. The Prime Minister took the opportunity to announce the declaration of September 11 as a National Day of Service in Canada, and to meet with every guest for a personal conversation, taking time to honour the memories of loved ones lost.
In addition to the reception for families, the Consul General hosted a private reception for a contingent of Canadian law enforcement officers, firefighters, and first responders who traveled to New York to participate in a variety of commemorative activities. The group was led by Toronto Police Services (TPS) officers; the TPS was among the first groups to arrive in New York to assist in the Ground Zero recovery efforts after the attacks, and they have returned for each anniversary. Other organizations from across Canada were also represented, including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The event was an opportunity for Canadians to connect with the New York Police Department and renew the close relationship forged on September 11.
Discussing the security and global defence partnership between Canada and the United States at a conference the Consulate held with the Foreign Policy Association the same week, Minister of Defence Peter MacKay offered his condolences to the families, friends, and loved ones of those who have died in the service of their country. He went on not only to thank the brave men and women of the Canadian Forces, but also to remark upon the poignancy of meeting surviving family members.
“Meeting those families, looking into their eyes and seeing the pain they still feel is very much a thought-provoking and personal reminder of what is at stake when you are dealing with security threats and extremism,” said Minister MacKay.
“Then I reflect to the other side of the equation in places like Afghanistan where not only do we have a military presence but we are doing everything that we can to help educate children and eradicate health concerns to help give them hope and a future. These are important core investments that I hope will go to the root of some of these extremist sentiments that are felt about the west. It is a huge and daunting task that we face in a complex world these days. There are no simple answers, only the profound sense of responsibility and hope – hope that we will see a more peaceful future.”
The Consulate General preceded the week’s somber commemorative events with a memorial concert presented in collaboration with the Canadian Association of New York. The concert – entitled Canada Sings the American Songbook: A Tribute to New York – featured singer Tom Cochrane, world-renowned tenor Ben Heppner, Cape Breton fiddler Natalie MacMaster, and iconic Late Show with David Letterman Musical Director Paul Shaffer, among other exceptional artists performing American-written songs. The concert was a moving celebration of New York's resiliency, a sincere tribute to those directly affected by the events of September 11, and a joyous illustration of the friendship that binds Canada, the U.S., and their respective peoples together.