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Direct from Ottawa - May 25

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Thursday, May 25, 2000

At four p.m. eastern time, the Canadian Forces airbus landed on the runway of Uplands Airport in Ottawa. An unknown soldier buried in foreign soil in the name of freedom more than 80 years ago has finally come home. Home to Canada. He left a country as youthful as himself, and has today returned to a nation. A nation that became so because of the very sacrifice he and 11,285 of his comrades gave.

In witness of veterans and delegates, on a windy tarmac, a flag-draped coffin was lowered from the belly of a plane and placed into a waiting hearse. One veteran in particular inspires us all. First World War veteran, Paul Métivier, has just returned from Vimy, France after an exhausting few days for even the young at heart. At 99, he does not shy away from an opportunity to share with others, in either official language. Eloquently he expresses his feelings about the tomb of the unknown soldier and his desires of its symbolism. When asked if he feels Canada will remain the Canada as he knows it, unhesitatingly he response, "Absolument!" Ironically, Mr. Metivier lost one of his sons in the Second World War, an unknown soldier himself. He was fortunate to enjoy the company of another son, Jean Metivier, during this pilgrimage back.

Uplands Ottawa Airport

The Unknown Soldier is taken from Uplands to the Cartier Square Drill Hall in downtown Ottawa. We are favoured by the company of veterans from the Perley and Rideau Veterans' Health Centre, bedecked in their medals. The Honourable George Baker, Minister of Veterans Affairs easily mingles with these fine gents. All exchanging their sentiments on the symbolism the Unknown Soldier and their hopes that one of our fallen might carry the torch of remembrance for generations to come.

From Cartier Square Drill Hall, the Unknown Soldier rides on a motorized gun carriage procession up to "the hill" where it will lay in rest in the Hall of Honour until the morning of Sunday, May 28. The public and veterans will have the opportunity to visit the casket throughout the weekend and pay their respects. The Canadian military will provide a 24-hour vigil.

Parliament Hill, Ottawa

There was nothing more impressive than standing on the hill, the Capital of Canada, with fellow Canadians and veterans and hearing the distant sounds of the Forces band approach. It was not a solemn tune being played but one of celebration. It fills our ears and hearts with a new symbolism. One of hope for the future.

As Canada's Minister of Defence, Art Eggleton, so eloquently articulated, "The victory at Vimy in World War I is rightly celebrated as our national coming of age But we must never forget that the price was paid in blood. The soldier will lie forever as a reminder. A reminder that we owe our peace, prosperity, our freedom to those who have gone before. And a reminder that there are those who still sacrifice themselves for us. In three days this Canadian will be interred into the tomb of the unknown soldier at the base of the National War Memorial. We begin a new millennium. To reflect on the events and actions that has brought our nation this far. Though the name remains unknown, we must never forget the sacrifice."

Ottawa, Canada

Vimy, France

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