Hundreds pay respects at East York Remembrance Day ceremony
Hundreds of people gathered under a grey sky in East York Wedneday, Nov. 11, to pay respect to Canada’s servicemen and women.
A parade of service members of all ages and stripes marched down Coxwell Avenue and into the Memorial Gardens at the East York Civic Centre to start the Remembrance Day ceremony, as military bands played.
“We come together today to remember and honour the more than 117,000 Canadian men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice for the freedom we Canadians enjoy,” Zone D3 Commander Walter Vaughan told the crowd.
“We owe a deep gratitude to those who have served and those who are still serving in our Armed Forces, and those members of our police, our fire, our EMS, and our doctors and nurses as they serve around the world in both war and peace-keeping missions.”
Members of the crowd joined in a singing of O Canada, as Canadian flags, provincial flags, military flags, the Union Jack and others were displayed proudly by parade members, who stood at attention as the ceremony unfolded around the cenotaph. Beside the East York Civic Centre’s Canadian flag, a Lest We Forget flag with a large poppy flew at half mast.
Crowd members also joined in the singing of hymns and God Save the Queen, and the First Light Scout Band performed a song called Remember Them Well. Pte. Ken Campbell from The Royal Canadian Hussars read In Flanders Fields, which turned 100 this year, and Reverend Jim Parker of Bethany Baptist Church offered prayers.
“This is a day to remember, this is a day to grieve, this is a day to give thanks,” said Rev. Parker. “As we go together throughout this day, throughout this year, may we go continuing to remember, keeping faith with those who have died and those who have sacrificed. May we go in deep gratitude for the freedom that we now enjoy, and may we go with deep resolve to do all we can to make peace prevail in East York, in Toronto, throughout Canada and around this world.”
Beaches-East York Councillor Janet Davis spoke about the need to support Canada’s veterans, encouraging people to assist and advocate for those struggling to heal the physical and emotional scars of war.
“Today, as we remember those who gave their lives, we also cannot forget our commitment to peace. Peace in our homes, in our schools, peace on our streets and peace in the world,” she added.
“Together we keep alive the legacy of those who have died, together we work for a better world.”
Several wreaths and poppies were placed at the cenotaph. A fly past by the Canadian Harvard Aircraft Association and the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum was a moving sight for many.
“I watched a lot of people in the crowd shed a tear when the planes went over,” said East York resident Connie Mitchell. “The fly by with the heritage planes, it was beautiful.”
Mitchell attends the East York ceremony every year.
“We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for all the lovely veterans and what they did for us,” she said. “It was great to see all the people (here) with the children, all different ages. I think it’s so important with our aging vets that the young children come out and hear the stories, so that the remembrance can continue.”
East York resident Marg Rockingham said it’s important for her to attend the ceremony every year as well. Many in her family were members of Canada’s Armed Forces, including uncles she lost in the Second World War and her brother who just retired from the Navy.
“It is a time to think about what was sacrificed, the horrors that previous generations have gone through that we’ve been lucky enough to escape,” she said. “I think it’s important for us to stay very cognizant of how easy we lose our freedoms if we do not pay attention, and to say thanks.”
As the parade exited following the ceremony, many in the crowd erupted in applause, bringing a smile to some parade member’s faces; in East York, their sacrifice has not been forgotten.