Canadians are marking a return to in-person Remembrance Day ceremonies, including at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, a year after the COVID-19 pandemic forced limited gatherings.
The annual ceremony in the country’s capital included the playing of the Last Post, the ceremonial laying of wreaths at the foot of the memorial and a moment of silence followed by a 21-gun salute.
This year marks 100 years since Canada adopted the poppy as a symbol of remembrance.
Typically, tens of thousands of people attend the ceremony in Ottawa, but last year’s ceremony was limited to a much smaller crowd of 100 or so dignitaries, active service members, veterans and some members of the public.
Royal Canadian Legion spokeswoman Nujma Bond was expecting a return to some semblance of normalcy with people being welcomed to attend.
Some restrictions and changes nonetheless remained in place as COVID-19 continues to pose a threat, Bond said, with masks and physical distancing requirements for anyone attending ceremonies.
The Legion also again cancelled the traditional veterans’ parade in Ottawa, which has in the past seen elderly veterans from the Second World War and Korea march alongside counterparts from more recent conflicts and operations.
The ongoing pandemic also means that some older veterans were unable to attend the ceremony in Ottawa, including 97-year-old Jack Commerford.
A Second World War veteran, Commerford was one of the thousands of Canadians who landed on Juno Beach during the battle of Normandy.
Watching from his home in Ottawa, Commerford said he felt “badly” for not being able to attend in person this year, but would like to attend in 2022.
“I do hope that next year the restrictions will be lifted,” Commerford told CBC’s chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton.
A security concern at the ceremony in Ottawa slightly delayed the arrival of the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Gov. Gen. Mary May Simon.
A mysterious package was found in the vicinity of the National War Memorial, but it has since been cleared, according to RCMP.
Some Legion branches across the country have also again forgone in-person events because of the pandemic and instead asking people to watch their local ceremony on TV or online.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, large gatherings remained limited by the pandemic. But some in St. John’s made their way to the war memorial downtown and lined the streets to remember the fallen.
The usual Remembrance Day ceremony at the Charlottetown cenotaph was also limited to military representatives and local politicians as the ceremony was again not open to the public this year.
More than 1,000 people stood under sunny skies at Halifax’s Grand Parade to mark their remembrance as the ceremony reopened to the public this year.
Trudeau released a video statement prior to the ceremony in Ottawa, where he spoke of those who were injured or died in the line of duty.
“We owe so much to those who bravely serve, to our veterans, to the fallen and to the families who love and support them,” he said.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole released a statement saying Remembrance day is an opportunity to thank those who serve in the armed forces.
“Our veterans and those serving today represent the very best of what it means to be Canadian. Their selflessness and courage serve as an inspiration to all of us,” O’Toole said in his statement.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh will attend a local ceremony in his B.C. riding of Burnaby.
“We remember those who lost their lives in the line of duty, and those who were forever changed by their experiences,” he said in a statement.