B.C. Remembrance Day ceremony draws those with families touched by war

VANCOUVER — The legacy of war has touched Andrew White’s family in ways that give Remembrance Day a particular meaning for him.

Standing on the lawn of Victory Square in Vancouver with his young children squirming around him as a ceremony at the cenotaph unfolded, White became emotional as he talked about the way trauma affected his grandfather, who served in the Second World War.

“He was one of the ones who came back. But when he came back, he was a changed person,” he said.

He said he tries to instil in his children a sense of the sacrifices made in the name of peace.

"I tell them that war is terrible and that people had to fight in order for us to have the freedoms we have today. And we have to do everything we can in our power to not go down that route again."

White was among hundreds who gathered under grey skies at Victory Square to observe a moment of silence on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

The ceremony included a salute to Indigenous veterans, the laying of a single white rose at the cenotaph by Second World War veteran Percy Smith, 99, and a flypast by CP140 maritime patrol aircraft in honour of those lost in combat and thereafter.

It was among ceremonies held in cities across Canada, from Victoria and New Westminster to Fredericton.

Premier John Horgan observed the day with a statement saying the ceremonies were occurring in an "uncertain global landscape" and pointing to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Remembrance Day is a chance for personal reflections on the horror and pain of war, Horgan said.

"We remember the fallen, and we recognize the loss of the grandparents, parents, spouses and children left behind."

In Vancouver, White wasn't alone in remembering family.

"All my family fought in the Second World War and some of them fought in the First World War," said Daniel Solomon.

"We were very fortunate," he added. "No one was lost."

Solomon was a gunner in Sioux Ste. Marie, Ont., where he fired howitzers, which are typically used in 21-gun salutes, he said.

"That was our job. I remember, my job was to pull the lever," he said. "The gun certainly jumped. And if you called it a gun, you got 50 push ups — it was a howitzer. So I remember doing pushups quite a few times."

The war in Ukraine is bringing back memories of the consequences of war, Solomon said. Like White, he said he had family who carried trauma, including his father-in-law who returned with a stutter.

"A lot of people were pretty wound up and pretty upset during those times and a lot of people didn't want to talk about it," he said.

Dan Wilson said he arrived at the Remembrance Day ceremony in downtown Vancouver to honour the sacrifices of those who have served the country.

He grew up in a Saskatoon community known as Montgomery Place, which was established in 1946 through the Veterans Land Act as a place for veterans to settle with their families after returning from the Second World War and later the Korean War.

Wilson said love of country and service to country was emphasized from a young age and made it an easy choice to join the military himself.

“Everybody was a veteran. We all grew up as sons and daughters of veterans, very proud.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 11, 2022.

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press