12 November 2020 16:32
OTTAWA--The sacrifices of Canadians past and present were honoured alongside messages of hope Wednesday as small crowds braved the pandemic to mark Remembrance Day across the country and thousands more paid homage from their own homes. Past ceremonies have largely focused on the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who fought in the two great wars, and this year was the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. Still, with eight members of the Canadian Armed Forces having died while on duty this year, and thousands more serving in long-term care homes battered by COVID-19, commemorations had an added level of resonance. During his annual Remembrance Day sermon at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, Rabbi Reuven Bulka praised members of the Canadian Armed Forces for not flinching when called upon to serve in long-term care facilities struggling to contain outbreaks. Julie Payette and Debbie Sullivan, this year's Silver Cross Mother, whose son Chris Saunders died while serving on one of Canada's four submarines in 2004. Other scaled-down Remembrance Day ceremonies were held in communities across the country, including in Toronto where Ontario Premier Doug Ford and a small group of dignitaries and military personnel attended a service at Queen's Park.
"We face a new enemy in COVID-19," Ford said at one point during the ceremony, which featured the unveiling of a new memorial to those who served in Afghanistan. At another small ceremony in front of Old City Hall, Toronto Mayor John Tory said Wednesday marked the 100th anniversary of the community's inaugural Remembrance Day commemoration. Yet the ceremony remained a moving experience for veterans like William Howe, who served with the Black Watch and Royal Canadian Regiment. While about 100 onlookers at the National War Memorial in St. John's, N.L., turned out against requests to observe a moment of silence from their doorways, they nonetheless wore masks as they bowed their heads and remained at a distance from one another. For Paulette Cook, executive director of the Royal Canadian Legion's Quebec Provincial Command, just having a ceremony - no matter how small - was important.
"That's when I go back in time and think about our men who served in the Second World War and our losses in Korea," said Black of the annual moment of silence. Julie Payette gives a thumbs up as she makes her way with Silver Cross Mother Debbie Sullivan to speak with veterans during a Remembrance Day ceremony at the National War Memorial in Ottawa on Wednesday. "It's incredibly important that no matter what is going on we remember our veterans, we remember this moment, we have that moment of silence," said Gen. Jonathan Vance, the country's top military commander. "It's comforting to people that we can still do some of these normal, important national moments even though there's a pandemic." "On this day when so much has changed since the last time we gathered, may we be comforted by the words from Her Majesty the Queen to Canadians in the context of this pandemic," said Chapdelaine, as a 21-gun salute rang out behind him. Most observances of Canada's wartime sacrifices across the country are expected to be extremely small after the Royal Canadian Legion explicitly discouraged Canadians from attending Remembrance Day ceremonies. Julie Payette, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Sophie Gregoire Trudeau participate in a Remembrance day ceremony at the National War Memorial in Ottawa on Nov. 11, 2020. Ontario Premier Doug Ford and a small group of dignitaries and members of the military attended a service at Queen's Park in Toronto. A small crowd also gathered in front of the cenotaph at Toronto's Old City Hall, the 100th anniversary of the Remembrance Day tradition in Canada's largest city. But for veterans, the small Remembrance Day ceremony at the cenotaph remained moving. "It's the first time all my fellow brothers and sisters aren't here with me," said William Howe, a veteran who served with the Black Watch and Royal Canadian Regiment. A modest crowd gathered around the National War Memorial in St. John's Wednesday morning. Residents of St. John's were asked to observe the 11 a.m. Remembrance Day moment of silence from their doorways this year, to keep safe in the global pandemic.