Canadians here and abroad pay tribute to fallen at Remembrance Day ceremonies

Canadians across the country and around the world today were reflecting on the sacrifices made in past and present conflicts.

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette presides over her 1st ceremony at the National War Memorial in Ottawa

People lay poppies on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier following the National Remembrance Day Ceremony at the National War Memorial in Ottawa. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Canadians across the country and around the world today were reflecting on the sacrifices made in past and present conflicts.

Thousands gathered under a clear sky in the biting cold in Ottawa for a Remembrance Day service at the National War Memorial.

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette, in her first Remembrance Day since becoming commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, laid the first wreath at the event.

"On behalf of all Canadians, I would like to extend my most profound gratitude to members of the Canadian Armed Forces, past and present," Payette said in her prepared remarks.

The former astronaut noted she is a descendant of a soldier and flew in space with members of the military, including close friends who died in service to their country.

"I know first-hand what sacrifice means," she said. "We have a duty to remember the stories of Canadians who valiantly fought for our freedoms."

Payette later hosted a luncheon in honour of this year's national Silver Cross Mother, Diana Abel, who lost her son, Cpl. Michael David Abel, on May 3, 1993, during Operation Deliverance, in Belet Huen, Somalia.

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette speaks with 2017 National Silver Cross Mother Diana Abel, right, during the National Remembrance Day Ceremony at the National War Memorial in Ottawa Saturday. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not attend this year's national service, instead taking part in a ceremony of remembrance in Vietnam, where he's attending the APEC leaders summit. His wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, attended the Ottawa ceremony with Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O'Regan.

Remembering Canada's sacrifice in war

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Scenes from a cold Remembrance Day at Canada's National War Memorial in Ottawa. 1:39
  • You can re-watch CBC's full Remembrance Day Special with Rosemary Barton and Ian Hanomansing on YouTube

Icy temperatures also prevailed in Toronto, where hundreds of people gathered to pay their respects in the downtown core. Mayor John Tory said the conditions seemed appropriate given the purpose of the gathering.

"It might just give us the tiniest sense of the devastating circumstances in which our service men and women did their duty on our behalf in many past conflicts," he said.

In Halifax, hundreds of people turned out, and doves flew overhead as rows of uniformed men and women removed their hats to pay their respects to fallen soldiers.

Veterans, dignitaries and citizens also bowed their heads in Montreal as prayers and poems were read in English, French and Mohawk.

Some wiped away tears during a reading of Robert Laurence Binyon's poem For the Fallen, which was occasionally drowned out by the booming cannon fire of an artillery salute.

The crowd was invited to repeat the famous refrain: "At the going down of the sun and in the morning/we will remember them."

Later, outgoing Mayor Denis Coderre linked arms with his successor Valé​rie Plante as the two lay a wreath at the foot of the cenotaph.

100 years after Passchendaele and Vimy

Special attention is also being paid this year to several key battles from the First and Second World Wars, including the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele, which ended on Nov. 10, 1917.

More than 4,000 Canadians were killed and 12,000 were wounded in Passchendaele, which Trudeau described as a symbol of the worst horrors of the First World War.

"Our soldiers fought an impossible fight with perseverance, valour and commitment to a greater cause," Trudeau said in a statement issued Friday.

"Nine Canadians would earn the Victoria Cross for their bravery. Yet the battle came at a devastating cost."

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This year also marked a century since the April 1917 Battle of Vimy Ridge, which saw nearly 3,600 Canadians killed and more than 7,000 wounded, and 75 years since the Dieppe Raid of the Second World War.

Cannons, flypast

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CBC's Hannah Thibedeau speaks with Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O'Regan at the National War Memorial in Ottawa ahead of Remembrance Day ceremonies 3:31

Several Howitzer cannons sent thunderous echoes across the capital today as members of the 30th Field Artillery Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery, fired several gun salutes as part of Remembrance Day ceremonies.

The Royal Canadian Air Force conducted three flypasts over Ottawa-area ceremonies, including two CF-18 Hornets from 3 Wing Bagotville, Que., flying above the National War Memorial.

At the National War Memorial, the military's senior chaplain delivered a powerful message to those struggling with thoughts of suicide as a result of their time in uniform.

"We pray for all those who, because of the strain of life, have considered or attempted suicide," Brig.-Gen. Guy Chapdelaine said as the large crowd stood in respectful silence.

More than 130 serving military personnel have taken their own lives since 2010, according to the government, including eight who died between January and August this year.

In Danang on Saturday, Trudeau joined nearly 100 people in a hotel conference room for a ceremony that began about an hour after his closing news conference at the APEC summit.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pins his poppy on a wreath during a Remembrance Day ceremony in Danang, Vietnam. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

He recited the French poem, Le dormeur du val, and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland read In Flanders Fields. A bugler then played Last Post and the room sang the national anthem.

"Every generation of Canadians has answered the call to serve. From Ypres to Dieppe to Korea to Afghanistan, our servicemen and women have shown courage as a matter of course, and stood resilient in the face of great adversity," Trudeau said in a written statement issued by the Prime Minister's Office.

with files from The Canadian Press