OTTAWA — Eleven tolls from the Peace Tower filled the air around Parliament Hill on Monday morning, marking the start of two minutes of silence in which Canadians paused to remember and honour those who took up arms — and in some cases paid the ultimate price — to defend this country and its way of life.
Similar scenes played out across the country at cenotaphs and memorials as the clock struck the 11th hour on Remembrance Day.
A crowd of thousands lined the wind-swept streets around the National War Memorial in Ottawa for the national ceremony. They arrived early, standing and watching a parade of veterans arrayed before the monument unveiled 80 years ago by King George VI.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Gov. Gen. Julie Payette were among those laying wreaths in memory of those who died serving Canada.
“They fought for the ideals of peace and to defend our liberties,” Payette said in a video message.
“Many were wounded in their body and in their soul. Too many paid the ultimate price. We owe them an immense debt of gratitude. We must never forget their sacrifice and the terrible costs of war. Let us never take freedom for granted and stand up for equality and tolerance.”
Trudeau echoed those sentiments in a separate statement as he credited those who served in uniform with having built peace, defended democracy and enabled countless people to live in freedom in Canada and around the world.
“Today, we pay tribute to our veterans, to those who have been injured in the line of duty, and to all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice,” he said. “They stood for liberty, and sacrificed their future for the future of others. Their selflessness and courage continue to inspire Canadians who serve today.”
Also present for the morning’s national ceremony was this year’s Silver Cross Mother, Reine Samson Dawe from near Kingston, Ont. Her youngest son, Capt. Matthew Dawe, was killed in Afghanistan in 2007 alongside five other Canadian soldiers and an Afghan interpreter.
She was to lay a wreath during the ceremony on behalf of all Canadian mothers who have lost children to war.
As the official ceremony came to a close, Payette, Trudeau and Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay shook hands with veterans, some of whom had red blankets draped over their laps and legs to stay warm in the biting cold.
The leaders thanked the veterans for their service, echoing a message from the ceremony in which veterans young and old were called “authentic heroes,” deserving to be celebrated and thanked at every opportunity.
“We are grateful to them for being the unifying inspiration of selflessness and dedication, reminding us of what being Canadian is all about,” Rabbi Reuven Bulka said during the ceremony.
This year’s Remembrance Day ceremony followed a major event in France earlier this year marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day, when thousands of Canadian stormed the beaches of Normandy with their British and American allies to fight Nazi Germany.
It also comes exactly 101 years after the end of the First World War.