'How fortunate we are': Canadians' service honoured at Remembrance Day ceremonies

Mayor John Tory said Remembrance Day is a time "to honour those who stood up for us," during a solemn ceremony at the Old City Hall Cenotaph Saturday morning.

Service at Old City Hall one of several held across the GTA to pay tribute to Canada's war dead

Soldiers arrive for the Remembrance Day ceremony at the Old City Hall Cenotaph. (Ivan Arsovski/CBC)

Mayor John Tory said Remembrance Day is a time "to honour those who stood up for us," during a solemn ceremony at Old City Hall Saturday morning.

Hundreds of people gathered at the Cenotaph for the annual Remembrance Day Service.

The service got underway at 10:45 a.m., when the colour parties marched to the site.

The Old City Hall tower bells marked the eleventh hour and a trumpet sounded the Last Post before those gathered observed two minutes of silence.

The Elmer Iseler singers sang the hymns.

In his speech, Tory noted the winter chill in the air. At 11 a.m., the temperature was -2 C, but felt like -8 with the wind chill.

"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," Tory said.

Mayor John Tory addresses the crowd at the Remembrance Day ceremony at the Old City Hall Cenotaph on Saturday. (Ivan Arsovski/CBC)

He reminded the crowd, which included active service men and women, veterans, politicians and members of the public, that sacrifices made in service have made it possible for the work done in the nearby court and city hall buildings to carry on.

"We are able today to make our decisions and to resolve our differences through dialogue and debate and court hearings, due to the service of millions of Canadians and the ultimate sacrifices made by tens of thousands of Canadians," Tory said.

Later, he laid a wreath at the Cenotaph, as did MP Adam Vaughan and representatives from numerous agencies.

Master Seaman Theo Poot said it was "really nice to see a large crowd" for the ceremony. On Remembrance Day he reflects on friends and family members who have and who are currently serving, including his son, David, who is also in the Navy.

Poot said he would like people to remember the sacrifices families make when a loved one is serving overseas.

"That's what's important to remember on days like this: the effort that it takes for soldiers, airmen, Navy people to be able to do their job and how it takes away from other things," he said.

Poot's partner, Tanya McDonald, was moved to see so many younger people at the ceremony.

"I think of my family that served," she said. "I think of the history behind us and how fortunate we are to live in this country and to have people who serve for us."

Ordinary Seaman Shabesh Shanmuganathan said he serves because he feels a "duty" to give back to the country that took him and his family in. (Ivan Arsovski/CBC)

Ordinary Seaman Shabesh Shanmuganathan, who came to Canada at age three from Sri Lanka, is the first member of his family to service in the Canadian Forces. 

"I felt like I had a duty to the country …and kind of a debt to return, in a sense, for all the privileges my family's enjoyed by being here," Shanmuganathan said.

The Old City Hall service was one of several that took place across the GTA to mark Remembrance Day. The annual Sunrise Service at Prospect Cemetery began at 8 a.m.

Veterans arrive for the Sunrise Service at Prospect Cemetery early Saturday morning. (Chris Langenzarde/CBC)
The sun peeks through the trees during a Remembrance Day service at Prospect Cemetery. (Chris Langenzarde/CBC)

Ceremonies were scheduled for the Pickering Cenotaph, Oshawa's Memorial Park, Markham Town Centre and other locations.