It is important to give thanks to men and women that serve or have served in the Canadian military. Their efforts have led to many countries around the world becoming a safer place for people to live and travel to. Without the Canadian military, it is hard to know if Canada would still be the free, democratic and welcoming country that it currently is. Our country is a very popular destination for tourists and we should all spend November 11 giving honouring our military personnel. We do this in three ways in Canada: ceremonies, silence and poppies.
Each year on November 11 there are numerous ceremonies held in cities throughout Canada, typically at a city’s local war memorial. In our capital, Ottawa, we have our largest memorial: the National War Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The largest Remembrance Day ceremony in Vancouver is at Victory Square, in downtown Vancouver at the cenotaph that has stood since 1924. Typically, at these ceremonies, you’ll see a military parade, followed by speeches by local politicians and military personnel praising our soldiers, a reading of a poem (often “In Flanders Fields”) and a laying of commemorative wreaths among other traditions.
During the ceremonies, at 11:11 all Canadians are asked to stop what they are doing and observe two minutes of silence. During this period, we are to think about the Canadian soldiers who have fallen in combat, served in the military previously and those currently serving.
Another aspect of Remembrance Day is the poppy flower. You’ll notice in the few weeks leading up to November 11, many Canadians will wear a red poppy on their shirt or jacket. The use of the red poppy stems from a famous Canadian John McCrae who recited a poem over the grave of a fallen comrade in Europe. Ever since the poppy has served as a symbol of Remembrance Day. The poppy is sold on street corners and in shops by various military-related charities to raise money in support of those who have served in the Canadian military. So if you see a poppy being sold while you are in Vancouver, be sure to buy one (by donation).
In Flanders Fields
by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae
May 3, 1915
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
(As published in Punch Magazine, December 8, 1915)