Vancouver Ethiopian Blog

Ethiopian life in Vancouver, BC, Canada

Remembrance Day in Canada

What is Remembrance Day?

Remembrance Day – also known as Poppy DayArmistice Day (the event it commemorates) or Veterans Day – is a day to commemorate the sacrifices of members of the armed forces and of civilians in times of war, specifically since the First World War. It is observed on 11 November to recall the end of World War I on that date in 1918. (Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice.) The day was specifically dedicated by King George V, on 7 November 1919, to the observance of members of the armed forces who were killed during war; this was possibly done upon the suggestion of Edward George Honey to Wellesley Tudor Pole, who established two ceremonial periods of remembrance based on events in 1917.

But, what is the brief history of Remembrance Day in Canada?

History of Remembrance Day in Canada

  • Remembrance Day commemorates Canadians who died in the First and Second World Wars, and the Korean War. It is held every November 11.
  • The first Remembrance Day was conducted in 1919 throughout the Commonwealth. Originally called Armistice Day, it commemorated the end of the First World War on Monday, November 11, 1918, at 11 a.m.: the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
  • From 1923 to 1931, Armistice Day was held on the Monday of the week in which November 11 fell. Thanksgiving was also celebrated on this day.
  • In 1931, MP Allan Neill introduced a bill to hold Armistice Day on a fixed day – November 11. During the bill’s introduction, it was decided the word “Remembrance” would be used instead of “Armistice.” The bill passed and Remembrance Day was first conducted on November 11, 1931. Thanksgiving Day was moved to October 12 that year.
  • The poppy is the symbol of Remembrance Day. Replica poppies are sold by the Royal Canadian Legion to raise money for Veterans.

The Ode of Remembrance

The Ode of Remembrance is cited on Remembrance Day followed by the phrase “Lest we forget.”

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

Lest we forget.

Remembrance Day In Canada

In Canada, Remembrance Day is a public holiday, and is a statutory holiday everywhere except Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Northwest Territories. The official national ceremonies are held at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, presided over by the Governor General of Canada, any members of the Canadian Royal Family, the Prime Minister, and other dignitaries, to the observance of the public.

Typically, these events begin with the tolling of the Carillon in the Peace Tower, during which serving members of the Canadian Forces (CF) arrive at Confederation Square, followed by the Ottawa diplomatic corpsMinisters of the Crown, special guests, the Royal Canadian Legion (RCL), the viceregal party, and, if present, the royal party. Before the start of the ceremony, four armed sentries and three sentinels – two flag sentinels and one nursing sister – are posted at the foot of the cenotaph.

The arrival of the Queen or Governor General is announced by a trumpeter sounding the “Alert”, whereupon the monarch or viceroy is met by the Dominion President of the RCL and escorted to a dais to receive the Royal or Viceregal Salute, after which the national anthem, “O Canada,” is played. The moment of remembrance begins with the bugling of “Last Post” immediately before 11:00 am, at which time the gun salute fires and the bells of the Peace Tower toll the hour. Another gun salute signals the end of the two minutes of silence, and cues the playing of a lament, and then the bugling of “The Rouse“. A flypast of Canadian Air Command craft then occurs at the start of a 21 gun salute, upon the completion of which a choir sings “In Flanders Fields“.

The various parties then lay their wreaths at the base of the memorial; one wreath is set by the Silver Cross Mother, a recent recipient of the Memorial Cross, on behalf of all mothers who lost children in any of Canada’s armed conflicts. The royal and/or viceregal group return to the dais to receive the playing of the Royal Anthem of Canada, “God Save the Queen“, prior to the assembled Armed Forces personnel and veterans performing a March Past in front of the royal and/or viceregal persons, bringing about the end of the official ceremonies.

A tradition of paying more personal tribute to the sacrifice of those who have served and lost their lives in defence of the country has emerged since erection of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the War Memorial in 2000. After the official ceremony the general public pay their respects by placing their poppies atop the tomb.

Similar ceremonies take place in provincial capitals across the country, officiated by the relevant Lieutenant Governor, as well as in other cities, towns, and even hotels or corporate headquarters. Schools will usually hold special assemblies for the first half of the day, or on the school day prior, with various presentations concerning the remembrance of the war dead. One of the largest indoor ceremonies is held in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, with over 8,500 gathering in Credit Union Centre in 2008. The ceremony participants include old guard (veterans), new guard (currently serving members of the CF), and sea, army, and air cadet units. The largest indoor ceremony in Canada is currently held in MontrealQuebec.

Books of Remembrance

Seven Books of Remembrance are kept in the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill to honour those Canadians who died serving Canada in war. There is one for each of the wars: the South African War, World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. There is a separate Book of Remembrance for the Merchant Navy, and another one for Newfoundlanders, since Newfoundland did not join Confederation until 1949.

The Seventh Book of Remembrance was dedicated in 2005 to honour Canadian Forces men and women who gave their lives for Canada since October 1947. It is ongoing and will honour Canadian Forces members who paid the ultimate sacrifice for generations to come.

The Books of Remembrance provide a beautiful and touching testament to the Canadians who died in military service. You can scroll through the names, and also see the decorative pages.

Why Is Remembrance Day So Important to me?

As my grand father passed away fighting fascist Italy in Ethiopia, I understand the pain and suffering that war brings to a family and to a country. On Remembrance Day, not only I salute the brave men and women of Canada, but also I pay my deepest respect to all Ethiopians, who have sacrificed their time, energy and life in order to keep our home country free from invaders, colonialists, and looters.

In Ethiopia, we have been observing remembrance day annually on March 2, commemorating  the Victory of Adwa, where fascist Italy surrendered in 1896.

For more information on Remembrance Day, check out this link:


November 5, 2009 - Posted by | Ethiopian Calendar, Ethiopian Citizenship, Ethiopian Culture, Ethiopian Education, Ethiopian History, Ethiopian Holidays, Ethiopian Media, Ethiopian Parenting, Ethiopian Politics, Ethiopian Socials, Ethiopians Back Home, Ethiopians in Vancouver


  1. […] The Contribution of Ethiopia and Other African Nations for World Peace During the WWII Last week, I published a post regarding Remembrance Day. […]

    Pingback by The Contribution of Ethiopia and Other African Nations for World Peace During the WWII « Vancouver Ethiopian Blog | November 11, 2009 | Reply

  2. […] November 5: Remembrance Day in Canada […]

    Pingback by Ethiopian Vancouver Blog: Looking at My 2009 Posts « Vancouver Ethiopian Blog | January 6, 2010 | Reply

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