Quebecers mark Remembrance Day in person for first time since pandemic

Quebec Premier François Legault participated in Remembrance Day ceremonies in Montreal. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Quebec Premier François Legault participated in Remembrance Day ceremonies in Montreal. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada - image credit)

Ceremonies marking Remembrance Day took place across Quebec today, with many returning to their full grandeur for the first time since the pandemic.

For the past two years, events had been scaled down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some places held events without public participation, sometimes only streaming events live or after the fact.

This year also marks the 80th anniversary of the Dieppe raid, a battle that claimed the lives of more than 900 Canadian soldiers. It's often described as the Canadian military's bloodiest day of the Second World War.

In Montreal, officials gathered at Place du Canada to mark the day, with a 21-gun salute, cannon fire and flypasts by military helicopters. Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante and Quebec Premier François Legault were among those in attendance.

"Today, it's important to remember the sacrifice and courage of these people — even very young people — who went to make sure that we can keep our democracy and liberty," Legault said.

"What's happening now in Ukraine reminds us that we still need those people."

In Quebec City, a remembrance ceremony took place in front of the Croix du Sacrifice, at the entrance of the Plains of Abraham.

A new inscription was unveiled on the base of the cross. The date 2001-2014 was engraved to honour Canadians who served in the period of deployment in Afghanistan. This marks the first addition to the cross in several decades.

It joins the dates marking the First World War (1914-1918), the Second World War (1939-1945) and the Korean War (1950-1953).

At the ceremony, the names of 26 fallen soldiers and military personnel, all from the Quebec City region, were called out to honour those who lost their lives in Afghanistan.

Lt.-Gen. Jocelyn Paul who served in Afghanistan in 2009 was in attendance. Paul, who is originally from Wendake, Que., said the reciting of the names of those who died overseas was "poignant," especially since he knew a few of them personally.

"Every single time any of us are attending Remembrance Day we pretty much go through the same thing, you go back to these deployments. You're thinking about these men and women with whom you served and in some cases it may be a few decades ago, but still for many of us the memories are still quite fresh," said Paul.

Veterans say service is about more than war

Violet Drummond, a 98-year-old Navy veteran from the Verdun borough, said she was happy to see people celebrating not just the victories, but the "wonder" of those who stood up to serve.

"Thank goodness we don't give up. We just keep going, and thanking all those who worked for our country," she said. "It's beautiful."

Some veterans say it's about more than remembering those who went to war.

Rowan Kennedy/CBC
Rowan Kennedy/CBC

Maj. Jawara Hinkson said the ceremonies are also important to remind citizens that "it's not always about fighting on the battlefield."

He pointed to how the Forces are increasingly called to intervene at home, during forest fires, floods and other natural disasters, for example.

"We're here to serve our communities. We really take a lot of pride in that," Hinkson said. "The Canadian population was front-row centre when we all deployed during the COVID-19 pandemic ... and did what we needed to do to make sure people are safe."

Eugene Montour, with the Kahnawake Legion 219, was called upon to recite the Act of Remembrance in Kanien'kéha. He said those who didn't die in the line of fire are also being remembered today.

"Some made it home, but they didn't make it home — they're still in the battlefield somewhere," he said, referring to those who suffer from conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder.

"You remember those guys. You remember their stories … we talk about them all year 'round, but on this day, you seem to remember them a lot."

Rowan Kennedy/CBC
Rowan Kennedy/CBC