Thousands gathered at ceremonies across British Columbia Monday to honour the service and sacrifice of Canadian veterans for Remembrance Day.
This year’s Remembrance Day marked 101 years since the signing of the armistice that ended the First World War, as well as the 75th anniversary of D-Day amid the Second World War.
The province’s largest ceremony took place at Victory Square in downtown Vancouver, where crowds spilled out onto Cambie and Hastings streets to help pay tribute at the cenotaph.
The service began at 10 a.m. with a performance by the Vancouver Bach Youth Choir and Sarabande, followed by a combined performance by Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services and the Regimental Pipes and Drums of the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada, who sang Canadian singer Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.
Every year, a young person writes and performs a poem for Vancouver’s service. This year’s poem, A Phantom Pain, was read to the crowd by Cameron Elliot, a Grade 11 student at Vancouver’s Fraser Academy.
Two minutes of silence were held at 11 a.m., following a sounding of The Last Post. The 15th Field Artillery Regiment then performed a 21-gun salute at Portside Park.
Horn players sounded the Lament and Rouse, and the Royal Canadian Air Force performed a flyby as In Flanders Fields was sung by the Vancouver Bach Youth Choir and Sarabande.
Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart laid a ceremonial wreath on behalf of the city, while Defence Minister and Vancouver South MP Harjit Sajjan laid one for the government of Canada.
Among the most affecting moments in the ceremony was the arrival of 99-year-old Paul DeLorme, a Metis man who served with the South Saskatchewan Regiment in the Second World War, who came to lay a long-stemmed white rose at the cenotaph to honour his fallen comrades.
As DeLorme — who was wounded in the 1942 Dieppe Raid and kept as a prisoner of war for three years — was introduced, the crowd spontaneously broke out into applause.
Another veteran Penny Sterling, who served as a sergeant in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War, placed her own rose on the cenotaph as well.
Veterans and cadets then joined together to parade down Cambie and Hastings streets to mark the end of the ceremony.
Vancouver saw several other smaller Remembrance Day ceremonies, while most other B.C. cities held their own events and tributes.
Hundreds gathered in Victoria on the legislature grounds to make the occasion, joined by Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps and members of the B.C. government.
Premier John Horgan says in a statement that Remembrance Day is a time to reflect on the horrors of war, loved ones lost and the sacrifice of those who returned with injuries, both visible and invisible.
“For generations, Canadians have bravely risked their lives to protect ours,” he said. “We must never forget their sacrifice. We must stand united against hate, violence and intolerance. And we must work together to build a more peaceful world.”
Large crowds also turned in communities across B.C., including Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford, Vernon and Kamloops.
The national ceremony at the National War Memorial in Ottawa saw tens of thousands brave the cold to pay tribute alongside Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.