Governor General, Silver Cross mom attend national Remembrance Day ceremony

From Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Korea, to the Governor General in Ottawa and streetcar drivers in Toronto, Canadians are honouring the country’s military dead.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper places a wreath with Canadian Veteran Arsene Dube and Laureen Harper during a Rememberance Day ceremony at the Korean War Memorial in Seoul

Prime Minister Stephen Harper places a wreath with Canadian Veteran Arsene Dube and Laureen Harper during a Rememberance Day ceremony at the Korean War Memorial in Seoul

OTTAWA — From Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Korea, to the Governor General in Ottawa and streetcar drivers in Toronto, Canadians are honouring the country’s military dead.

In Halifax, several hundred people gathered at the cenotaph in front of city hall on a cold but sunny Remembrance Day morning.

A brisk wind blew in off the harbour, the last sight of home for many a departing troop ship.

Among the crowd was Vern Westhaver, 88, a veteran of D-Day.

“I think about all the guys that I knew that didn’t make it,” he said. “And I must admit I wonder if it was worth it.”

In Newfoundland, a monument honouring both past and present was unveiled during ceremonies in Conception Bay South. It includes two bronze statues, one depicting a Blue Puttee soldier from the Royal Newfoundland Regiment of the First World War and the other, a present-day female soldier.

Earlier, the prime minister attended a simple, but moving Remembrance Day ceremony in Seoul, held in a large, open, sunlit square outside South Korea’s war museum.

He laid a wreath at the base of plaques commemorating the troops who fought and died in the war 60 years ago. Almost 27,000 Canadian troops participated in the war, fighting alongside South Koreans, Americans and other allies to push back communist forces from the North.

More than 500 Canadians were killed in the conflict, and about 1,200 were wounded or injured.

Crowds are gathering at the National War Memorial in Ottawa where Gov. Gen. David Johnston will preside over his first Remembrance Day ceremony.

Mabel Girouard of Bathurst, N.B., is to take part as the Silver Cross Mother, representing grieving parents.

Her son, Chief Warrant Officer Robert Girouard, was killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan in November 2006.

With Harper at the G20 summit in Korea, Environment Minister John Baird will represent the federal government at the national ceremony.

The ceremony will include all the traditional rituals, including a flypast, and similar rites will play out at cenotaphs large and small across the country.

In Toronto, the city’s transit commission plans to halt its subways, buses and streetcars for two minutes of silence at 11 a.m.

In Kandahar, Afghanistan, the families of dead Canadian soldiers took part in Remembrance Day ceremonies.

They were among the more than 200 people who gathered at the cenotaph at Kandahar Airfield. Flags were lowered to half-mast and wreaths were laid in honour of the 152 Canadians killed in Afghanistan since 2002.

Rene Allard, whose son Matthieu was killed last year, said being in Afghanistan allows him to better understand what his son went through before he died.

Brig. Gen. Dean Milner, the commander of the Canadian mission in Kandahar, told the crowd it is important to remember that soldiers died for the common cause of freedom and human decency.

This is likely to be the last Remembrance Day with Canadian soldiers at war in Afghanistan. The combat mission ends next year and the government is contemplating a switch to a mission training the Afghan army.

The prime minister issued a Remembrance Day statement paying tribute “to the many Canadians who have made the ultimate sacrifice so that we may live in a country free from tyranny and governed by freedom, democracy and justice.”

“We stand in silent reflection for those brave men and women throughout Canada’s history who, when called upon to defend the values we hold dear, did not waver,” Harper said.

“Instead, they left family and loved ones for far away battlefields from which many would never return.”

About 100,000 Canadian sailors, soldiers and flyers have died in the country’s wars and military missions, mostly in the 20th century.

Remembrance Day recalls the dramatic end of the First World War, when an armistice went into effect at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.