Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Wayne Eyre says Canada “has much work to do” to be able to face a declining security situation around the world.
Eyre told Global News’ Mercedes Stephenson at the national Remembrance Day ceremony in Ottawa Saturday that he is “very concerned” about Canada’s readiness, after spending much of the past year warning that the world is facing unprecedented security threats amid the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine, Israel and the Gaza Strip, and rising tensions with India and China.
“We have much to do to get our readiness back to where it needs to be,” he said.
“We are not insular here in this country. Events around the world can directly impact our security.”
Canada’s history in past wars, current security troubles, along with the ongoing conflicts around the world are cause for significant reflection, Eyre said.
“It’s a deeply, deeply personal day,” he said.
Thousands of Canadians attended the national Remembrance Day ceremony in Ottawa and at cenotaphs across the country to honour the military servicemen and women who put their lives on the line.
The ceremony took place after a year that saw the Canadian Armed Forces deploy thousands of troops to battle domestic disasters, including the historic wildfires that blazed a trail of destruction from coast to coast to coast.
But as Canada takes in all that has happened in the past year, eyes turn to those who have fought in battles around the world from the Second World War to the Korean War, as well as more recent conflicts like that in Afghanistan.
More than one million Canadians served in the Second World War. More than 45,000 died and another 55,000 were wounded. Another 33,000 fought in the Korean War.
Veterans Affairs Canada says there are 9,267 veterans of the Second World War and Korean War who are still alive in Canada.
Gov.-Gen. Mary Simon, who is Canada’s commander-in-chief, was in attendance and presided over the ceremony.
For the government, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended alongside Veterans Affairs Minister Ginette Petitpas-Taylor.
Petitpas-Taylor told Stephenson at the ceremony that “services at Veterans Affairs have to evolve,” noting that approximately 8,200 members from the Canadian Armed Forces retire every year.
The minister said it is important that care services are prepared for the variety of challenges modern veterans may experience such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health conditions. Baby Boomers are also aging and now looking for long term care services, she added.
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“Those are the types of conversations that we continue to have,” Petitpas-Taylor said.
In a Remembrance Day statement, Trudeau encouraged Canadians to wear a poppy and take two minutes of silence to honour those who have fought, as well as troops who have taken part in peacekeeping missions and those who are training Ukrainian soldiers.
“Remembrance Day is an opportunity to recognize members of the Canadian Armed Forces who have courageously answered the call of duty. When it was needed most, they left behind their families and homes,” Trudeau said. “Many returned with severe trauma, or didn’t return at all. Their sacrifice is a debt that we can never repay.”
The Silver Cross Mother this year, Gloria Hooper from St. Claude, Man., laid a wreath at the Cenotaph on behalf of all parents who lost a child in uniform. Hooper’s son, Sapper Chris Holopina, was a combat engineer based in Petawawa and was serving in Bosnia in 1996 as part of Operation Alliance. He was 22 years old at the time and was one of the 23 Canadian Forces members who lost their lives while deployed in the Balkans between 1992 and 2010.
The ceremony also comes as Canada marks the 75th anniversary of the first peacekeeping mission — held in the Middle East — which saw peacekeepers monitor the truce between Israel and its Arab neighbours.
The CAF first participated in a peacekeeping mission in 1954 in Cambodia. Since then, Canada has participated in dozens of peacekeeping missions, with the longest ever in Cyprus lasting from 1964 to 1993, with a small contingent of military observers still there today.
A separate ceremony for Indigenous veterans also took place at 9 a.m. local time at the Aboriginal Veterans Monument.
— with files from The Canadian Press and Global News’ David Akin and Bryan Mullan