Remembrance Day draws huge crowds as National War Memorial rededicated

Canada's National War Memorial, the scene of a horrifying shooting less than a month ago, is rededicated to add the dates of the Afghanistan mission and the South African War.

Afghanistan mission, South African War dates added to memorial to include all who have served Canada

National Remembrance Day service

8 years ago
Duration 2:01:28
CBC News special from the cenotaph in Ottawa

Canada's National War Memorial, the scene of a horrifying shooting less than a month ago, was rededicated today to add the dates of the Afghanistan mission and the South African War.

The rededication was performed by Gov. Gen. David Johnston as part of the Remembrance Day ceremonies at the memorial, which now carries a new inscription: "In Service to Canada — Au service du Canada."

Johnston told onlookers, "We are people of peace, of respect and tolerance, kindness and honour. These qualities are alive in our national conscience precisely because we hold them as precious. We have the luxury to do so because those we remember today believed those qualities to be precious enough to die for."

Princess Anne read a message from her mother, Queen Elizabeth, which said: "Today it is fitting that, with this ceremony of rededication, we pay tribute to all those Canadians who in the intervening years have laid down their lives in the service of peace, justice and freedom."

The war memorial was first dedicated by King George VI in May 1939, to mark the sacrifices of those who fought in the First World War. He called it "the spontaneous response of the nation's conscience, revealing the very soul of the nation."

The Second World War began just months later in the fall of 1939.

Former CBC correspondent Brian Stewart noted a similarity to the 1939 event, when 100,000 people turned up.

Second World War veteran William Stanfield, 91, is helped to his seat as he and other war veterans take part in Remembrance Day celebrations in Toronto on Tuesday. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

"This was a groundswell event," he told CBC's chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge. "A lot of organization goes into it, but what really strikes you here is how many people made this into their day; came out in numbers not seen in our times."

Ottawa police estimated the crowd to have reached 50,000 people. Typically, about 35,000 people turn out each year.

The main Remembrance Day event in Ottawa was held at the same place where Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was shot and killed nearly three weeks ago, two days after a man in Quebec drove his car into Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, killing him.

The Remembrance Day services and commemorations today came amid a rising tide of concern for Canada's Forces and the memory of those who have protected the country in the past.

Ottawa police had said there would be an increased police presence Tuesday around the memorial where Cirillo was gunned down the morning of Oct. 22, and off-duty officers were able to wear their uniforms to the ceremony and carry their sidearms.

Several armoured vehicles were seen on the streets near the cenotaph this morning, and reporters could see military personnel on rooftops nearby, including those of the National Arts Centre and the Chateau Laurier Hotel facing the memorial.

In a year when poppy sales broke records, emotions were running higher than usual.

Hundreds attended a candlelight vigil at the National War Memorial in Ottawa on Oct. 25 to pay tribute to Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, a reservist from Hamilton who was killed there three days earlier. Since Cirillo's death, people have travelled in droves to the war memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Wayne Powell, the Canadian Legion's district poppy chair for Toronto, told CBC News the legion was stretched to keep up with demand for poppies, worn as a symbol of remembrance in Canada, the U.K., Australia and New Zealand.

Princess Anne joined Johnston at the National War Memorial, along with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. NDP Leader Tom Mulcair attended the ceremony in Halifax.

Others attending included:

  •     Vice-Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, Princess Anne's husband.
  •     Laureen Harper, the prime minister's wife.
  •     Sharon Johnston, wife of the Governor General.
  •     Senate Speaker Noël Kinsella.
  •     Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino.
  •     Gen. Thomas Lawson, chief of defence staff.

The Ottawa commemoration included the familiar rituals of the piper's lament, Last Post, the artillery salute and the recitation of the Act of Remembrance taken from Laurence Binyon's poem, For the Fallen:

"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old …."

Harper and his wife, Laureen, placed a wreath at the memorial after the rededication.

In a statement issued by the Prime Minister's Office, Harper said, "We can never repay the debt we owe to the intrepid men and women who paid for our freedom with their lives, but we can remember their enormous sacrifices and pay tribute to their bravery and patriotism."

Since Cirillo's death, people have travelled in droves to the war memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at its foot. They have carpeted the steps with bouquets, poppies, photos, poems, written tributes, stuffed animals, a can or two of beer, even a battered hockey stick.

The formal ceremony, including dwindling numbers of Second World War veterans and ranks of serving soldiers, sailors and air personnel, likely only increased interest, especially since temperatures were warmer than usual Tuesday.

Speaking in Halifax, Mulcair said the tragic events of the past few weeks are a reminder of the sacrifices made by those in Canada's Armed Forces.

"I invite you to join your fellow citizens today to honour the memory of our brave soldiers and to offer a message of encouragement to those who continue to fight for a more peaceful world."

Trudeau issued a statement saying, "Recent events serve as a reminder for us all of the enormous debt owed to our Canadian Armed Forces members, past and present, and the contributions they have made in the name of freedom and democracy."

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With files from The Canadian Press


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