Activity: Canada National Remembrance Day Ceremony, Ottawa, Canada

This post is one chapter on our trip to Atlantic Canada on Air Canada. This trip was booked and credited to Aeroplan. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Activity: Attending Canada’s National Remembrance Ceremony, Ottawa, Canada

Every year on November 11, Canadians from all across the country gather at Canada’s War Memorial in downtown Ottawa for the National Remembrance Day Ceremony. Organized by the Canadian Legion, it is the ceremony that stands in Remembrance of all that have fallen in the name of Canada in campaigns around the world. Being a government town, ten’s of thousands arrive to spectate the ceremony, in addition to national television broadcasting of the event. I’d always wanted to take part in spectating this ceremony, having seen it on television several times. Fortunately, thanks to luck in the business and personal travel schedule, I managed to get there this year.

I had an early but full breakfast at the Westin Ottawa. I set out on a grey and cool but dry day with temperatures hovering just around freezing. The Westin Ottawa was conveniently located very close to the National War Memorial. The first sight out of the front door of the Westin is the famous Fairmont Chateau Laurier which has had several famous guests over the years; including Sir Winston Churchill photographed by photographer resident Yousuf Karsh.

I eventually located a spot to watch the parade immediately underneath the press booth areas. I ended up staying here for the whole duration of the parade. I eventually spotted Canadian Television National Anchor Host Lisa LaFlamme co-hosting the television coverage of the parade with former Chief Of Defence of the Canadian Forces Rick Hillier. Canadians will remember Rick Hillier to be one of the most outspoken change managers of the Canadian Forces. During his tern, he led as Commander to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. He was also remembered for his commentary on when he called terrorists “detestable murderers and scumbags”. He went further, saying “we’re not the public service of Canada. We’re not just another department. We are the Canadian Forces, and our job is to be able to kill people.” As you may expect, these comments were met with interesting reaction by Canadians and the media everywhere.

I eventually got hemmed in about 5 people deep with 32,000 persons in attendance to this year’s parade. Overhearing conversations around me, there were visitors from all parts of Canada; Calgary, Halifax and the Prairies. As the parade started, we had a variety of military uniforms march past into formation. With Canada being a commonwealth country, many of the uniforms, ranks and insignias are based on British structure.

Eventually, as the parade formed up, the veterans were able to march on.

This years parade was presided over by Canada’s Governor General, Julie Payette, wearing an Army Uniform as commander in Chief of the Armed Forces.

The parade included a fly past by Canada’s Air Force. They typically fly in a missing man formation, although for some reason, they didn’t this year and flew past in a standard triangle.

Wreaths were laid by the Governor General, the Prime Minister of Canada and the Silver Cross Mother, along with other government officials.

As the formal part of the parade concluded, the War Memorial was re-opened to the public. It has become a Canadian tradition to place your Remembrance Poppy on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to mark the end of the period of Remembrance. This is such a popular tradition that crowds line the memorial in order to do so. I headed up to the War Memorial in order to take a look.

The attendees around the Tomb of the Unknown Solider represents one of the most poignant parts of the Parade as thousands come to pay respects.

After I had laid my poppy, I took a look around the War Memorial. I happened to see the Prime Minster Justin Trudeau shaking hands and taking selfies amongst crowd goers (dressed in black in the foreground) Perhaps unusual in other countries, it’s somewhat unique that you can come to a public event and get this close to the democratically elected leader of your country.

After the parade, I hopped in my rental car and drove myself back to the Ottawa Airport for my 5 PM transcontinental flight back home to Vancouver. I was happy to have gotten the opportunity to have taken in the National Remembrance Day Ceremony in Ottawa. It was surely an interesting experience to have been involved as a spectator in one of the major memorial events of the country that takes place every year.

Thanks all for following along on this report!

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