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Remembrance Day: Ceremonies Across Canada

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Remembrance Day: Ceremonies Across Canada

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OTTAWA – Putting on masks alongside poppies in the cold of November, Canadians returned to cenotaphs and monuments across much of the country on Thursday to remember and pay tribute to those who fought and died in the service of the country.

This year’s Remembrance Day ceremonies were in stark contrast to last year, when organizers discouraged people from attending in person due to the second wave of COVID-19.

In Ottawa, thousands of people stood quietly behind metal barriers as a cold wind tore leaves from trees near the National War Memorial and pulled clothes on as political and military dignitaries stood silently on guard. before you lay wreaths.

Those in attendance included Governor General Mary May Simon, Defense Minister Anita Anand and Acting Chief of Staff General Wayne Eyre, all of whom were attending their first Remembrance Day ceremony in their current roles .

The presence of Anand and Eyre also reminded us that the Canadian military always takes sexual misconduct into account.

Anand, who was sworn in as defense minister just three weeks ago, replaced Harjit Sajjan after months of criticism over his response to allegations of misconduct in the Forces.

“The first and most important thing we need to do on Remembrance Day is remember the sacrifices our soldiers past and present have made for our country,” Anand said.

“And my role as Minister of National Defense is to ensure that the Canadian Armed Forces continue to be an institution where everyone can feel safe, respected and protected. And that’s what I will continue to do every day.

Eyre said that as the Canadian Armed Forces “go through difficult times” the men and women in uniform continue to stand guard for the country, “so we have to prepare.”

But he then added that the military was also working to resolve the issues there.

“We will improve our institution every day because this is what Canadians will need and this is what our members demand,” he said.

Events were slightly interrupted by a security issue. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and May Simon arrived several minutes later than expected after the discovery of a suspicious package near the cenotaph. The ceremony was already underway when the RCMP cleared the package, allowing dignitaries to arrive safely.

The slight delay upset the carefully choreographed timing of the ceremony, which included the traditional moving sounds of a single bugle playing the Last Post, the sound of a bagpipe playing the Lament, and an air parade of CF-18 fighter jets. .

Bright red poppies dot most of the lapels, 100 years after their adoption as a symbol of remembrance in this country.

During the blessing, Royal Canadian Navy Captain Bonita Mason called on Canada to oppose “anything that opposes inclusion or all, whether in our own. hearts or in the actions of others, so that we may be strengthened in our common values ​​and service to Canada. “

Cesar and Ellen Marie Vanneste decided to attend the Ottawa ceremony in person last year despite the risk, though barricades were erected so far away they couldn’t see much.

“We’re going to come rain, sleet or snow,” said Ellen Marie. “As long as we have our strength, we’ll be in the mid-80s, we’ll keep coming.”

The village of Caesar in Belgium was liberated by Canadian soldiers in 1944 when he was just a child. The couple used to bring their children to the National War Memorial each year to pay their respects. They said it was nice to see the crowds coming back this year.

Similar scenes took place in other communities across the country.

In Halifax, hundreds of people gathered outside City Hall alongside veterans and dignitaries, including the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia. Arthur LeBlanc. Last year, the event at the city’s cenotaph was by invitation only.

Halifax Mayor Mike Savage said the turnout, although not what it was in the pre-COVID years, “speaks volumes” about how important people in his community are. city ​​grant Remembrance Day.

“It is a community that respects and honors the role of the military and certainly the role of veterans and those who paid the ultimate sacrifice,” he said.

In Montreal, where the public was not invited to appear in person, a few dozen soldiers and a handful of dignitaries gathered for a refined ceremony in front of the cenotaph at Place du Canada under the gaze of a small number of spectators from afar.

Prime Minister François Legault attended a ceremony in Quebec on the Plains of Abraham and, after meeting the widow of a soldier, urged Quebecers to remember the families of those serving overseas.

Both in Toronto and Iqaluit, there were reminders of what the military is doing at home as well, not just overseas.

In a ceremony in front of the Veterans Memorial outside the Ontario Legislature, Provincial Heritage Minister Lisa MacLeod thanked members of the Armed Forces who brought relief to some of the homes hardest-hit long-term care centers in the province that were overwhelmed by COVID-19 outbreaks last year.

In Iqaluit, a Remembrance Day parade brought soldiers together in town to help deal with the town’s water emergency.

About 200 people gathered in the northern city to witness the half-hour open-air ceremony, where temperatures hovered around -20 ° C.

Some Legion branches across the country have chosen to avoid in-person events for a second year due to the pandemic, which has led to many more Canadians watching their local ceremony on TV or online.

In the Prairies, where some provinces are still grappling with a fourth wave of COVID-19, nine Royal Canadian Legions hosted clean-lined events while the 38th Canadian Brigade Group hosted a virtual ceremony with dozens of Armory soldiers Minto military in Winnipeg.

– With files from Keith Doucette in Halifax, Morgan Lowrie in Montreal, Laura Osman in Ottawa, Holly McKenzie-Sutter and Noushin Ziafati in Toronto, Brittany Hobson in Winnipeg, Fakiha Baig in Edmonton and Emma Tranter in Iqaluit.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on November 11, 2021.

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