Canadians pay tribute to WWI veterans
On April 9, over 8,000 Canadians gathered in Ottawa to pay their final respects to a generation of young Canadians who served during the First World War.
The ceremony, which took place outside the National War Memorial, honoured the achievements of the soldiers, including Canada’s last known veteran of the First World War, John Babcock, who passed away on Feb. 10.
Included in Friday’s commemoration was the passing of the Torch of Remembrance, an event that John Babcock was part of in the years before his death. After a ceremonial blessing by Algonquin elders, the torch was passed to a younger generation of Canadians referencing Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae’s famous poem In Flanders Fields.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper eloquently referred to the men and women who served during the First World War as, “The generation whose fearlessness in war and selflessness in peace first defined our young nation in the eyes of the world.”
By the end of the conflict in 1918, Canada, with a population of less than 9 million, gained international recognition thanks to the success and professionalism of its soldiers.
Throughout the ceremony, four individuals in period costume flanked the four corners of the grave of the Unknown Soldier. Each represented one of the four divisions of the Canadian expeditionary force who served in the First World War.
The ceremony later included the release of 65 doves, one for every 10,000 Canadians who died during the First World War.
Steve Nother, Petty Officer First Class, expressed his desire for the school system to instill the importance of Canada’s history in today’s youth.
“It comes down to every individual parent’s need to impart the importance of it to their kids…. Communication with the community is [also] important to ensure people are informed of these events, [to] encourage them to remember,” said Nother.
The ceremony concluded with a march of current Canadian military personnel as well as veterans who had been seated in places of honour throughout the ceremony.
Following the official commemoration, onlookers flooded to the grave of the Unknown Soldier to cover it in a sea of poppies, Canadian flags and pictures of relatives from that generation.
During the First World War, 620,000 Canadians served in the armed forces. Of them some 170,000 were wounded and 65,000 lost their lives.