Thousands of people gathered Sunday to pay tribute to Canadians who gave their lives in sacrifice of their country and to those who continue to serve.
Remembrance Day observances in Toronto began with a sunrise ceremony at Prospect Cemetery. A ceremony was also held at the Veterans’ Centre at Sunnybrook hospital — the largest veterans’ care facility in Canada — where hundreds of vets and Ontario Lt.-Gov. David Onley honoured Canada’s war dead.
Thousands of people gathered at the two largest events at Old City Hall and Queen’s Park, as well as services at Toronto’s civic centres, Fort York, the Toronto Zoo, and Royal Canadian Legions.
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Two small groups of protesters were heard yelling during the moment of silence at Old City Hall, and apparently also during the singing of O Canada. No other disruptions happened during the ceremony and it’s believed the apparent protesters were removed by police. There’s no word on arrests.
Mayor Rob Ford thanked veterans for their service and highlighted the importance of young people carrying the torch of remembrance.
“We remember the service and the sacrifices of more than one and a half million Canadians,” Ford said, “soldiers, sailors, air crew, and merchant seamen. We stop to think how much Canadian families have sacrificed while their loved ones have served overseas to protect our interests.”
“Almost a century has passed since Canada’s first official Remembrance Day in 1919 and while our last [First World War] veterans have passed, we must not overlook their great sacrifices in a war that defined our great nation.”
Ford also highlighted the 70th anniversary of the raid on Dieppe in his speech, “a defining moment in Canadian history,” he said.
Premier Dalton McGuinty delivered what was likely his final Remembrance Day address in front of the provincial legislature.
“Canadian soldiers left the safety and comfort of our beautiful province and fought in cold, muddy trenches; faced horrifying gas attacks; overcame exploding bombs and frontal assaults; fought in the chaos of an air battle; weathered dangerous, unforgiving seas; endured ill health and mental illness; and feared improvised explosives right around the bend,” he said.
“After enduring so much, those who returned home used one word most often to describe themselves: lucky. … That self description speaks to the humility of our veterans and it speaks to their memories.”
The number of people attending services this year was expected to be bigger after a recent poll showed a growing number of Canadians is eager to honour fallen soldiers. An Ipsos-Reid online survey showed 30 per cent of respondents planned to attend a Remembrance Day event, up from 22 per cent in 2010.
Gov.-Gen. David Johnston led the national Remembrance Day ceremony in Ottawa as Prime Minister Stephen Harper is on an Asian trade trip. Harper took part in a Nov. 11 ceremony in Hong Kong Sunday morning.
At the Ottawa ceremony, Roxanne Priede was named the National Silver Cross Mother. Her son, Master Corporal Darrell Jason Priede, was killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan in 2007.
The Royal Canadian Legion chooses a National Silver Cross Mother to attend the national Remembrance Day service every year to represent all Canadian mothers who’ve lost children in service to their country.
With files from The Canadian Press
A map of Remembrance Day events across Toronto and Ontario:
View Remembrance Day events in Ontario in a larger map
In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.