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SENATORS' STATEMENTS - First World War - Joint Parliamentary Symposia in Canada and France

 

Hon. Serge Joyal: Honourable senators, on Monday, May 18, the National Assembly of the French Republic is hosting a symposium in Paris to commemorate the Centenary of the First World War, the war of 1914-18.

This symposium will be held under the auspices of the Canada-France Interparliamentary Association and the Cercle France-Amériques in Paris, with the assistance of the Canadian Embassy in Paris and the French Embassy in Ottawa.

Honourable senators, let us not forget that 620,000 Canadians served their country during this war, that 424,000 of them fought on the other side of the Atlantic, and that 60,000 of them lost their lives there and were buried on French soil forever.

The first session of the symposium was held here in the Senate on November 11 and 12, 2014. This second session will bring together six Canadian and five French prominent historians who are well known for their research and publications. Among them will be Professor Desmond Morton, from McGill University, and Professor Laure Quennouelle-Corre, from the École des hautes études en sciences sociales in Paris.

The cost of the symposium, namely the travel expenses for the speakers, is covered by a contribution from the Mission du centenaire, a French government agency responsible for coordinating and supporting activities to commemorate the war of 1914-18.

The general theme of the symposium consists in assessing the transformative impact this war had on Canadian and French societies at the political, military, financial and economic, scientific and socio-cultural levels. In other words, the food for thought is as follows: war is an all-encompassing event that changes all the parameters or benchmarks of a society. It uncovers the infinite supply of human kindness, just as it can give free reign to the darkest aspects of humanity: cruelty, torture, unpunished crimes and barbarism.

The purpose of the symposium is to investigate the forces in play during the war of 1914-18.

Among other important aspects to be discussed are censorship and the use of images for propaganda in Canada and France, or how freedom of expression is manipulated in wartime; the role of French, English and American banks in financing the war, or in profiting financially from the war; and the effects of the war on science and the development of increasingly destructive weapons.

These examples show that thinking about the war of 1914-18 will help us understand our own contemporary world marked by wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and elsewhere.

The Senate and the House of Commons will be represented at the May 18 symposium. Our colleagues, Senator Claudette Tardif and Senator Michel Rivard, will be there, as will members of each party in the other place. Next Monday's symposium in Paris will open with a speech by the President of the National Assembly of France, Claude Bartolone. Jean-Marc Todeschini, Secretary of State to the Minister of Defence, will close the session.

I would like to thank the Canada-France Interparliamentary Association and Veterans Affairs Canada for their interest in this unique event commemorating the centenary of the war of 1914-18.