21 May 2010
Niagara Falls, Ontario
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Thanks to Minister Nicholson for that kind introduction, and for the great work he does as Canada’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General, and as the Member of Parliament and the Minister for this area.
Greetings to my colleague Minister Goodyear, to Ontario Ministers Brad Duguid and Bradley, to MPP Kim Craitor, to Leader of the Opposition Tim Hudak, to Mayor Ted Salci, and to our hosts, first the Chairman of the Niagara Falls History Museum, Gord West, and also to the Orsini family hosting us here are the Doubletree Hotel.
We are here today to officially break ground for the renewal and expansion of the Niagara Falls History Museum. This is just one of the projects our government has supported to preserve the Niagara Region’s rich historical heritage: building a visitor centre at Old Fort Erie, preserving buildings and artefacts at Fort George, making investments to encourage historical tourism, especially for the upcoming Bicentennial celebrations of the War of 1812.
Funds for the project we’re announcing today have been provided under the Building Canada Fund, and it is just one of more than 16,000 projects of all kinds across the country launched as part of Canada’s Economic Action Plan. As must now be abundantly clear, that plan is working.
Nearly 300,000 net new jobs have been created by the Canadian economy since July 2009. That’s the best possible news for every man and woman who didn’t have a job a year ago, but who has one today: the best possible news!
Now, all these new community investments are important. However, I must say that this one here at Lundy’s Lane has wider significance for the country, and, if you will indulge me, I would like to just say a few words about that.
Just two miles up the road, there’s a border crossing. Through it, thousands of people pass to and from the United States every day. And, as they do so, it seems inconceivable that we should have ever had reason to go to war against our great friends across the river. Indeed, many of those going back and forth across the border may be hardly aware that here, on July 25th, 1814, mere yards from where we stand, the American and British armies clashed in one of the bloodiest battles of that War of 1812.
By contemporary accounts, this had been a charming spot. At the high point of Lundy’s Lane, amid open fields, stood a small church and cemetery. The battlefield itself Was surrounded by what campaign maps call "thick woods," and close by flows the majestic Niagara River.
Yet, in this rustic setting, here, there was carnage. Both sides suffered appalling losses.
President Theodore Roosevelt, who compiled a notable history of the war, remarked on the bravery both sides showed that day: "The struggle was of the most desperate character, the combatants showing a stubborn courage that could not be surpassed."
But, at the end of the day – Quite literally, as fierce fighting lasted well into a moonlit darkness, the Americans yielded the battlefield, and retired across the river.
In moments such as this, The Battle of Lundy’s Lane, Canada’s destiny and identity as a country, separate from the United States, were decided. British forces that day were heavily supported by several units of Canadian militia. Guarding their flanks were more than 500 First Nations allies from the Grand River and the Detroit and Ohio valleys. And across the future Dominion of Canada English and French-Canadians, in disparate communities, joined together to resist American invaders.
This particular victory is even referenced in that old, patriotic song, "The Maple Leaf Forever": "At Queenston Heights and Lundy's Lane, our brave fathers, side by side, for freedom, homes and loved ones dear, firmly stood and nobly died."
Well, so they did, and it is well that as the 200th anniversary of this old conflict approaches, we should get ready to retell the stories of our brave ancestors. Because what they did then, ladies and gentlemen, made a difference to who we are today, what side of the border we live on, what flag we salute.
Fortunately, the deep animosity that one might expect between peoples who engaged in so fierce a conflict with their neighbours did not endure. When the Centennial of the Battle of Lundy’s Lane was celebrated, almost 100 years ago, it was noted here in Niagara that "where the War… was waged continuously… the friendly relations are closer… than at any other point."
And, so we will welcome visitors from both our countries to this expansion of the Niagara Falls History Museum.
This investment by our government and our partners, the Government of Ontario and the City of Niagara Falls, will allow the better preservation and display of artefacts that bring to life the Battle of Lundy’s Lane, and indeed, that entire era.
Our investments will also allow the museum to be made wheel-chair accessible.
That sort of practical improvement, that makes a real difference in the lives of Canadians, is a hallmark of Canada’s Economic Action Plan.
I think, in this case, it’s particularly appropriate that disabled veterans should be able to freely visit a museum dedicated to Canada’s military history.
Let me conclude with a few words of hope and encouragement. As the recovery begins there remains much to be done. Jobs and growth are still our top priority, and it is essential that we complete our full, two-year stimulus program, Canada’s Economic Action Plan. However, we’re getting there.
Despite the continuing uncertainty in the global economy, we will lead our G7 peers in economic growth and the creation of wealth this year and next.
I want to thank you all for being here today, in particular our hosts, and I especially thank you for improving and enlarging this museum and for telling the brave stories of those great Canadians who came before us.