WATCH ABOVE: Tens of thousands of Canadians gather in Ottawa to pay their respects to Canada’s veterans.
OTTAWA – The National War Memorial in Ottawa is always a focal point for Canadians in early November – but today’s Remembrance Day proceedings carry extra poignancy in the wake of last month’s attack on Parliament Hill.
The towering granite and bronze memorial is always a centrepiece for remembrance, but the recent deaths of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent are giving the ceremony an extra layer of meaning.
“Members of the Canadian Armed Forces have the honour to wear a uniform that is recognized across the world as a symbol of courage and democracy,” said Prime Minister Stephen Harper in a statement. “The recent deadly attacks on Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Corporal Nathan Cirillo, who were targeted simply because they proudly wore this uniform, only strengthens Canada’s resolve to keep fighting against those who would deny our liberties and freedoms, and who have a complete disregard for human lives.”
“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. Lest we forget.”
The ceremony drew a crowd of thousands. The Royal Canadian Legion says poppy sales have jumped this year to more than 19 million compared with 18 million last year.
What’s more, 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, as well as the 75th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War.
All the while, Canadian fighter pilots are flying in harm’s way over Iraq.
Princess Anne, only daughter of the Queen, is attending Tuesday’s ceremony with her husband, Vice-Admiral Sir Tim Laurence.
Gov. Gen. David Johnston and Harper greeted the Princess Royal as she arrived.
They also chatted with Gisele Michaud, the Silver Cross Mother, whose youngest son, Master Cpl. Charles-Philippe Michaud, died of injuries suffered in Afghanistan in 2009.
WATCH: Thousands gather to place poppies on Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The ranks of Second World War and Korean veterans are noticeably thinner this year, as the years take their toll.
The diplomatic corps are out in force, along with various veterans groups and young people’s organizations.
The commemoration included the familiar rituals of the piper’s lament, the 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 …”
But there was also a formal rededication of the memorial itself, to add the dates of the Afghanistan mission and the South African War.
There is also a new inscription: “In Service to Canada – Au service du Canada.” The government says the inscription is intended to recognize all who serve, be it in the past, present or future.
It’s the second time the memorial has been rededicated. In May 1982, the dates of the Second World War and the Korean War were added.
Princess Anne paid tribute to Cirillo and Vincent shortly after her arrival in Ottawa on Monday. She also spoke of the rededication.
“As we stand on the verge of the monument’s rededication, I am mindful of this continuum of history and the privilege given us as members of the Canadian Royal Family to share such important moments with you all,” she said.
Her grandfather first dedicated the monument just before the Second World War began.
Since Cirillo’s death, people have thronged 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.
Social media silence
This year, as citizens across the country pause to reflect on the sacrifices of Canadian Armed Forces members both abroad and at home, Global News social media accounts also observed two minutes of silence.
Global News Twitter and Facebook accounts across the country fell silent at 11 a.m. ET during the ceremony at Ottawa’s War Memorial. Local newsrooms outside the Eastern time zone will also fall silent on social media for two minutes at 11 a.m. local time.
With a file from Global News