’We have lost an extraordinary Canadian’

The Governor General marks each casualty in Afghanistan with a statement of mourning, a few paragraphs to commemorate the sacrifice. Here, for instance, is one from last week. Here is another from August.

Michaelle Jean’s statement today though, to mark the passing of Private Patrick Lormand, runs some 500 words, the Governor General taking a moment to reflect on her recent visit to Afghanistan.

It broke my heart today to learn of the death of Private Patrick Lormand of the 2nd Battalion of the Royal 22 Regiment, based in Valcartier. This courageous soldier died when the vehicle in which he was travelling ran over one of the improvised explosive devices that insurgents use to spread and maintain terror in Afghanistan. Four of his colleagues were also injured in the explosion.

As a tribute to Private Lormand, I would like to reflect on the mission for which he so bravely gave his life, because, not three days ago, I was with our soldiers in Afghanistan to honour the difficult and remarkable job they are doing.

To better appreciate our soldiers’ achievements on the ground, I met and spoke with a number of representatives from Afghan civil society, women and men who, faced with barbarity, are defending life in Afghanistan and fighting injustice and misery; these are the people we never—or rarely—hear from. The people of Afghanistan support progress, democracy, the reconstruction of peace, the rebuilding of their country, the respect of rights and freedoms, the equality of women, education and development, and Canada, in turn, supports their efforts and initiatives to promote viable Afghan solutions to Afghan problems.

They all told me that the actions of our soldiers to insure the security of the area and that the contributions being made by the Canadian International Development Agency and all other civil Canadian partners are helping them to move forward as they face the forces of destruction in their country.

At the Sayad Pacha elementary school, which Canada helped to build in Kandahar in 2008, the girls and boys clearly told me in their own words that their greatest concern was security, and that it was essential to rebuilding their country, devastated by decades of war, and crucial in order for them to achieve their dreams. They also told me how grateful they were to all the soldiers who expose themselves to danger to protect them. They see the soldiers at work, on patrol, looking for explosive devices, uncovering mines and defending communities from terrorist incursions, all at great risk to themselves.

I visited the base hospital, where caring and professional Canadian Forces medical teams work day and night to care for civilians and soldiers, Afghans and members of the NATO coalition. Among the patients were three children who were being treated for severe burns and mutilations they suffered as a result of a slyly buried homemade bomb. Everyone at the hospital was mourning the two other children who had died the previous day in their care. I know they are in mourning again today for Private Lormand.

We have lost an extraordinary Canadian.

My husband, Jean-Daniel Lafond, our daughter, Marie-Éden, and I join all Canadians in expressing our deepest sympathies to Private Lormand’s family, loved ones and friends, as well as to his comrades still in Afghanistan, for whom this is another difficult loss.

Our thoughts are also with those who were injured, and their families and friends.