CALGARY — It was cold and snowing lightly, but more than 2,000 people still turned out for a Remembrance Day ceremony in Calgary.
Many older veterans were unable to brave the weather. Their special VIP seating area was mostly empty as a light dusting of snow gathered on neatly folded blankets placed on each seat.
The event at The Military Museums, which is the largest Remembrance Day ceremony in Calgary, attracted about 10,000 last year.
Federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney said this year’s ceremony was particularly poignant given the loss of two Canadian soldiers on home soil last month.
“Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo knew that when they first put on Canada’s uniform they were declaring their willingness to give up their lives for our country — and for our country’s constant struggle for freedom against tyranny,” Kenney told the shivering crowd.
“This is why they were targeted by an ideology of hatred and violence.”
Alberta Premier Jim Prentice said it is important to remember those who have lost their lives by living “fully, freely and justly” in the future.
“Over the last century, we have had more examples of sacrifice: in the Second World War, the Korean War, in peacekeeping missions around the world, in the Balkans and in Afghanistan,” Prentice said.
“This year, through acts of violence within our own borders, we have seen once again that tragedy — and sacrifice — is not confined to history.”
Michael Hornburg, who lost his son Nathan in Afghanistan in 2007, was moved by the strong turnout despite the weather. He said the snow and a wind chill of -25 C somehow seemed appropriate.
“I was really glad we had just a slight bit of discomfort. It made it very poignant for me and memorable just to think about all the sacrifices the men and women have had to put up with,” Hornburg said.
Canadians are more aware about what Remembrance Day is all about since the Afghan conflict and, more recently, after the deaths of Cirillo and Vincent, Kenney suggested.
“What happened in Ottawa last month gave today’s remembrance ceremonies a special poignancy. I believe that there was a period where we were drifting away from active remembrance of our military history and the sacrifices of our war dead,” he said.
“I think we see a really profound renewal of that remembrance — not just in the turnout at these things, but (in) events that are happening at shopping malls, businesses and schools.”