Marking Remembrance Day with OL’s Chair, Stéphane Tardif
As the Director of Safety and Security for Genesee & Wyoming Canada and Chair of Operation Lifesaver’s Board of Directors, Stéphane Tardif knows a little something about safety. But as member of the Canadian military for the past 33 years, he also knows about living in unsafe situations.
Promoting rail safety may be his day job, but Stéphane is also currently Brigadier-General and Deputy Commander of the Canadian Army 2nd Division in Montreal. He is now serving as a reservist, but has served full-time with the UN peacekeeping force in the former Yugoslavia and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as with NATO’s International Stabilization Assistance Force in Afghanistan.
To mark Remembrance Day, Operation Lifesaver spoke to Stéphane about why November 11th is an important day for him.
What does Remembrance Day mean to you personally?
Stéphane: It's certainly about respecting our past, but also looking towards our future. I think it's a unique moment of the year when we can take the time to be grateful to those who have served. If we have the freedom to speak without fear, to stand up for what we think and to elect our own government, it's because Canadian soldiers have sacrificed their lives for this country. We should be grateful that we can live freely in a country like Canada. We are very lucky to enjoy all that we have and a lot of people may take things for granted—like their safety.
It's also a very important day of the year for me personally because I served with soldiers overseas. I’ve lost brothers and friends.
As someone who spent much of your life trying to protect people, why did you want to get involved with Operation Lifesaver?
Stéphane: As soldiers, we value life. Personally, the experience I received overseas helped me to value life even more—because I saw the worst myself. I told myself when I joined Operation Lifesaver that it was a great way to make a difference in people's lives. Working with Operation Lifesaver, we might never know who we save. But if we can make someone pay just a little bit more attention around tracks and trains, maybe we will save their life without knowing it.
How will you spend Remembrance Day this year?
Stéphane: I don’t think I've ever missed a Remembrance Day since I joined the military. There's always a ceremony somewhere at the Cenotaph, where we bring the wreath and thank the soldiers and veterans that have served and those who have sacrificed their lives. Last year, I was in Montreal with the mayor. I wear my uniform and I'm thankful. I also try to explain to people around me what it is about, what the poppy is, and what it means.
This year, with COVID, it's a little different. We won't have big ceremonies like we usually do. But I will still take the time to remember. I do it because it’s a citizen’s duty but also for the people I’ve known who have sacrificed their lives.