Canadians paid tribute to the country’s war dead on Friday in solemn Memorial Day ceremonies across the country.
As the clock on the Peace Tower struck 11 a.m., thousands of people wearing poppies stood silently, cannons roared and military planes flew over the National War Memorial in Ottawa
Navy Capt. Bonita Mason prayed at the ceremony and pointed to the ongoing war in Ukraine and the importance of military families, while calling on Canadians to put aside their differences and embrace reconciliation and dialogue.
“In a world of struggle and instability, where the war in Ukraine continues to rage, we come together to affirm our determination to remove barriers to division in a spirit of reconciliation,” Mason said.
“We seek dialogue with each other in all areas: social, political and religious. In this way, we can achieve lasting peace. May we all strive to continue our efforts to build a better world.”
In a blessing, Rabbi Idan Scher noted that people in uniform are often asked to make sacrifices to protect the freedoms of Canadians, and called on the country to support its veterans.
“Not simply to say thank you, not simply to support our veterans and their families through words, but through actions, our time, our attention and our resources,” Schell said.
Those in attendance included Governor General Mary Simon, Veterans Affairs Secretary Lawrence Macaulay and Defense Chief of Staff General Wayne Eyre.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not attend the Ottawa ceremony as he traveled to Cambodia for an international summit. His wife Sophie Grégoire Trudeau and their eldest son Xavier did attend.
Before the ceremony, dozens of veterans of all ages and backgrounds marched through the streets of Ottawa, playing drums and playing alongside serving members of the armed forces.
At the National War Memorial, a Canadian soldier was reported to carry a flag during the battle in Dieppe, France, in August 1942 to mark the 80th anniversary of the raid. A wreath was also laid for Queen Elizabeth II, who died in September.
After two years of COVID-19 restrictions, including wearing masks and scaling back marches, similar scenes are playing out at monuments and war memorials in other parts of the country, seemingly normal on the surface.
Members of the Canadian Army and Royal Canadian Air Force watched the sad voice of the Last Post as hundreds gathered in front of Halifax City Hall on a warm and sunny day to pay tribute to Canada’s war dead .
In Fredericton, New Hampshire, at 11 a.m., gun salutes went off as babies in prams, dogs on leashes and children holding parents’ hands watched the ceremony under partly clear skies. When the first gun salute went off, a few children giggled and squeezed their parents’ hands even tighter.
Alistair Stark, 73, stood in uniform during a ceremony in Toronto outside the monument at Toronto’s Old City Hall.
“My father is a military veteran,” Stark said. “I just got back from Italy when I was laying a wreath in memory of my uncle who was killed in Italy.”
A member of the 48th Highlander, Stark served in the Military Reserve for 16 years. His father was born in Scotland and served in the 11th Hussars of the British Regiment.
“(My father) landed in Normandy, and I’m so proud of him,” Stark said. “My uncle served in Italy for the Black Guards (of the Royal Highland Regiment) and he was killed outside Mount Cassino. That’s why I was there to lay a wreath in his memory.”
Ontario Premier Elizabeth Dorswell and Mayor John Tory were among the dignitaries attending the Toronto ceremony.
“Today, our soldiers are deployed around the world to fight for and preserve the freedoms we enjoy back home,” Dowswell said.
“However, we cannot and cannot take these freedoms for granted. We are all talking about building back better after this pandemic, and we have to show that we have actually learned the lessons of the divided past. May we inspire dialogue. Yes Where there are differences, may we always strive to be united.”
In Montreal, retired Lt. Col. Henry Hall was one of those gathered at Canada Place. Hall was part of the United Nations Mission in the Middle East in 1974, when nine comrades died when a plane was shot down.
“It’s been a tough process,” Hall said. “It was very difficult, one of them was a good friend of ours and I obviously miss him a lot, I think about him all the time.”
He added that he would also think of his two grandfathers who served in the military in World War I, and his father who served in the Navy in World War II.
About 2,000 people gathered at a convention center in downtown Winnipeg for the city’s largest Memorial Day event.
Jane Brown attended for the first time on Friday. Brown, who chairs the Women’s Auxiliary for the Royal Canadian Legion Provincial Council, said attending these events was nerve-wracking.
“It’s just a big crowd. I’m a small town girl.”
Brown had an uncle who was killed during World War II. She said it was important to pay tribute to those who lost their lives.
“We need to remember and never forget the sacrifices made.”
—Contributed by Dylan Robertson in Anchorage, Hina Alam in Fredericton, Keith Doucette in Halifax, Jacob Serebrin in Montreal, Tyler Griffith and Jessica Smith in Toronto, and Brittany Hobson in Winnipeg .
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