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'I remember every day': Thousands gather for Remembrance Day ceremonies

Nova Scotians attended Remembrance Day ceremonies, parades and other events across the province Saturday to remember the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for our freedom.

2017 marks the 100th anniversary of some of the most notable battles of WW I that Canadian troops fought in

A Remembrance Day ceremony was held at Halifax's Grand Parade. (CBC)

After serving 26 years in the Royal Canadian Navy, Gus Cameron says he can't forget. For him, Remembrance Day is about reminding others.

"This is an opportunity to remind people to ... please, just take a second and think about the young fellas and girls over there in Europe that never came home," said Cameron, who retired from the navy 11 years ago.

Cameron was among the thousands of Nova Scotians who attended Remembrance Day ceremonies, parades and other events across the province Saturday to remember the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for our freedom.

Poppies are placed on a cross during Remembrance Day ceremonies at the Grand Parade in Halifax. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

This year marks the 100th anniversary of some of the most notable battles of the First World War that Canadian troops fought in, such as Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele

Cameron said he's still shocked to remember that many of the thousands of Canadians who died overseas were teenagers who volunteered to fight. 

For those who didn't return

Despite cold fall temperatures that dipped below –10 C with the wind chill Saturday morning, thousands gathered at Halifax's Grand Parade. The crowd included a small contingent of veterans from the Second World War.

Some who were unable to leave the Camp Hill Veterans Memorial Hospital attended a service there.

Karen Sutherland, representing memorial cross recipients, laid a wreath at the cenotaph for her brother, Pte. Nathan Smith, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2012. He was 27 when when a U.S. fighter jet dropped a bomb on him and three other soldiers near Kandahar.

She said she was also there to thank those who didn't come home. 

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces participate in Remembrance Day ceremonies at the Grand Parade in Halifax. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

"I remember every day, but it's good to see the support that others remember too," she said.

"I'm very thankful for them to come out. Those at home remembering, that's fantastic."

Fewer veterans every year

Bubby Adams of Halifax was just 15 when he lied about his age and enlisted in the army. He came from a family of 17 and wanted to ensure he had a steady paycheque to help them. 

He served for three decades, including with NATO forces in Germany in the 1960s.

Each year he looks forward to seeing his friends at Grand Parade, but only about a dozen people remain of a group of 100 that used to reunite each Nov. 11.

Army veteran Bubby Adams salutes as the anthem plays during Remembrance Day ceremonies at the Grand Parade in Halifax. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

"I love coming to Remembrance Day. There's so many guys that I used to come here with, unfortunately they're gone.... I think they'd be mad if I didn't show up," he said.

Adams still hopes for peace. On Saturday, his plea was for people to spread love and understanding. 

"So many guys have sacrificed their lives and here we are 2017 and we still don't know what's going to happen in the world today. It's frightening and it's scary," he said.

"With [more] love, guys like me wouldn't be taking up guns and taking other people's lives. Because I don't think that is what the world is supposed to be about."

A huge crowd of people turned out for Saturday's ceremony at the Grand Parade. (CBC)

The annual service began outside city hall with the singing of O Canada and the playing of The Last Post. Several dignitaries laid wreaths at the cenotaph, including MP Andy Fillmore and Halifax Mayor Mike Savage.

Jay Tofflemire with the Royal Canadian Legion, who opened the service, said he was encouraged to see so many young people in attendance. Leading up to Remembrance Day, he travelled to schools to speak with youth about the importance of remembering.

Services across the province

At 11 a.m., a 21-gun salute took place at the Halifax Citadel. The national park site's Army Museum was open Saturday to visitors from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.

Events were held across the province, including in Sydney, where the Highland Arts Theatre performed a special tribute that included old war songs, first-hand battle accounts from veterans and a performance from Heart of Steel, which is about wartime Sydney and women working in the steel plant.

Cameron said Remembrance Day can't end here. 

He wants the Canadian government to do more to help men and women who recently returned home and those who continue to serve in the armed forces. 

Gus Cameron, far right, gathered with his fellow veterans before Saturday's ceremony. (Elizabeth McMillan/CBC)

"We have to remember that some of the people that are performing the security of this country come home damaged, and we can't just put them off to the side and say they'll get better on their own," he said.

"We have to help them get better. We really do."

With files from Elizabeth McMillan