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Canada salutes its war dead, veterans at annual Remembrance Day ceremonies

Trudeau lays wreath at National War Memorial in Ottawa

Barry Ellsworth   | 11.11.2021
Canada salutes its war dead, veterans at annual Remembrance Day ceremonies

TRENTON, Canada

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie paid tribute to Canada’s war dead Thursday by laying a wreath at the National War Memorial in Ottawa.

Nov. 11 is Remembrance Day in Canada, a solemn time set aside each year to reflect on the almost 116,000 Canadians killed in the South African war of 1899, the two world wars and the Korean and Afghanistan wars.

The day is observed in most villages, towns and cities across Canada and a wreath is laid at each war memorial cenotaph or monument. On this day, Canadians wear a red poppy to remember lives lost to war.

Compared to past years, ceremonies Thursday were somewhat muted with smaller crowds than usual and not nearly the number of parades of Canadian Legion veterans -- the organization formed by World War 1 returning soldiers -- due to the coronavirus pandemic, as was the case last year.

Some ceremonies were closed to the public and those who did attend the scaled-down events wore masks and kept six feet from others, a poignant reminder of the 29,249 Canadians who have died from the virus as of Nov. 11.

Trudeau and other dignitaries, including the governor-general who represents Queen Elizabeth and senior military officials, laid wreaths of remembrance during the ceremony at 11 a.m., the day and time that the Armistice was signed, officially ending World War I. There was a 21-gun salute and “Oh Canada” rang out on Parliament Hill as a military flypast took place. As is usual, Trudeau did not speak, nor did other dignitaries except a few representing veteran organizations.

In schools, stores, on streets and in homes, Canadians stopped what they were doing and paused for two minutes of silence at 11 a.m. At Remembrance Day ceremonies, the Last Post was played and the poem, In Flanders Fields, recited.

The poem was written by Lt. Col. John McCrae, a Canadian army doctor who composed it in 1915 in the trenches near Ypres, Belgium, during World War I in memory of his friend, Lt. Alexis Helmer, who was killed.

Red poppies were growing in Flanders Fields between the rows of crosses where soldiers were buried and Helmer's death and the poppies served a McCrae's inspirations.

McCrea did not survive the war. He fell ill and died in 1918 but his world-famous poem lives on.

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