‘Forever in their debt’: Remembrance Day commemorations honour fallen soldiers, veterans

Click to play video: 'The changing faces of Remembrance Day'
The changing faces of Remembrance Day
WATCH: The changing faces of Remembrance Day – Nov 11, 2022

As Canada faces a rapidly changing world, the sacrifices of those who chose to serve in the Canadian military hold a special significance on Remembrance Day, the veterans affairs minister says.

Lawrence MacAulay told Global News at the National War Memorial in Ottawa on Friday that Canadians “have the peace and freedom because of those people.”

“The first message I would have today of course is thank you so much,” he said.

But, Gen. Wayne Eyre told Global News that the “stability” soldiers have fought for over the years is “under threat.”

“Our national prosperity is under increasing threat,” Eyre said as the first major land war in Europe since the end of the Second World War plays out between Russia and Ukraine.

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“The country’s going to be calling upon you more and more in the future, and so I ask you to be ready.”

The Remembrance Day ceremony in the nation’s capital was just one of many held across the country on Friday, as Canadians gathered to pay respect to those who fought and died in service of Canada.

This year marked a full return to traditional ceremonies after COVID-19 restrictions saw various changes to memorial services over the past two years.

Click to play video: '‘We are proud of you’: Canada’s top soldier reflects on Remembrance Day, state of Armed Forces'
‘We are proud of you’: Canada’s top soldier reflects on Remembrance Day, state of Armed Forces

Masks and social distancing are no longer required in many parts of Canada, and the traditional veterans’ parade returned to the national ceremony in Ottawa for the first time since 2019. Dignitaries at the ceremony included Gov. Gen. Mary Simon, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was absent as he heads​ to an international summit in Cambodia. The government was instead represented in Ottawa by MacAulay.

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“In hockey arenas, school gymnasiums, city centres, and retirement homes in every community across the country, we vow to never forget the sacrifices members of the Canadian Armed Forces and our veterans have made for us. We wear red poppies over our hearts to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice – a tradition inspired by Canadian Lieutenant-Colonel and surgeon John McCrae’s poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ – and we pay tribute to their family members and loved ones,” Trudeau said in a statement Friday.

Click to play video: 'Montrealers gather across the city to remember vets'
Montrealers gather across the city to remember vets

“Today, we pay tribute to Canadian service members, past and present, for all they have done to keep us safe. At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, we observe two minutes of silence for the brave women and men who gave their lives in service of a better Canada – we are forever in their debt. Lest we forget.”

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The return of the veterans’ parade and Trudeau’s absence weren’t the only difference in this year’s national ceremony. The Royal Canadian Legion marked the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the 80th anniversary of the Second World War raid on Dieppe.

A special wreath dedicated to the late queen, who died in September at age 96 after 70 years on the throne, was laid at the foot of the National War Memorial before the ceremony began. God Save the King was also sung at the ceremony.

It also featured a special Red Ensign flag that was reportedly carried by one of the nearly 5,000 Canadian soldiers who participated in the ill-fated Dieppe raid on Aug. 19, 1942. The flag was later donated to the Royal Canadian Legion.

Click to play video: 'Mystery flag to honour Dieppe Raid’s 80th anniversary'
Mystery flag to honour Dieppe Raid’s 80th anniversary

Tributes from Canadian officials also poured in Friday.

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Simon said in a statement Canadians should listen to and share the stories of bravery and heroism veterans have.

“I urge young people in particular to take on the mantle of remembrance and to learn how the sacrifice of veterans has changed the world. In this way, we honour the memories of the fallen and embrace the change that needs to happen to create the peaceful world we all deserve. Lest we forget,” she said.

In a statement, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said Canadians’ hearts were “heavy with solemn reflection” on Remembrance Day.

“On Remembrance Day, we are reminded that our freedom is not free. It has been bought with a heavy price — the courageous men and women who answered the call to defend liberty and uphold peace and justice,” he said.

“In return, we are asked to remember. We must never allow passage of time to wipe away our deep reverence and gratitude. We are compelled to honour memory of the thousands of faithful Canadians who paid the ultimate price so that we might be free. Lest we forget.”

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National Defence Minister Anita Anand said Canadian Armed Forces personnel are “willing to put everything on the line for their country.”

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“Let us honour them, and those who made the ultimate sacrifice, for defending the values that we hold dear,” she said in a statement.

“We salute the bravery of those who are no longer with us, and thank all members of the Canadian Armed Forces for enabling us to live in peace, security, and freedom.”

— With files from Global News’ Mercedes Stephenson and The Canadian Press

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