What is Remembrance Day and why do we celebrate it?
Every November 11 at 11a.m., we pause to reflect and acknowledge those we know, and those whose names we do not know, who served bravely and who paid the ultimate sacrifice during times of conflict and turmoil.
On November 11, we acknowledge their courage, their sacrifice, and their hardships and we also acknowledge our responsibility to work for the peace they fought hard to achieve.
Remembrance Day: A short history
Remembrance Day in Canada dates to the end of the First World War. In 1919 King George V urged countries in the British Empire to mark the armistice that ended the fighting by stopping all activities and observing two minutes of silence at exactly 11 a.m. on November 11 — the same date and time the armistice had been signed in 1918.
But what many Canadians today don’t know is that, in 1921, the date of Armistice Day was changed by Act of Parliament to fall on the Monday of the week of November 11 and to be held on the same day as Thanksgiving. This change confused – and angered – both the public and WWI veterans, and their pressure eventually prompted an amendment in 1931 that made November 11 the official date and also officially named it Remembrance Day. (For a detailed account, see The Canadian Encyclopedia.)
For more than 100 years, sometimes even protesting and changing laws, Canadians have been determined to enshrine the memory of those fallen in battle and ensure the sacrifices of those who served were honoured by future generations.
How you can get involved: Make the historical, personal
The lives and experiences of individuals who served can get lost in the overwhelming sweep of history. You can deepen your appreciation of their sacrifice by making a personal connection.
- True Patriot Love’s Remastered Memories project uncovered archived “letters home” – some over a century old – from people serving on the frontlines in Europe and Asia. These eyewitness accounts of trench warfare, life in hospitals and in a POW camp were read by image-generating algorithm which created artwork based on the text. You can see the original, handwritten letters and the resulting art by clicking here.
- William Mayse’s 1917 gripping letter from the trenches to his family, part of True Patriot Love’s Remastered Memories project, can be read in full here. You can also listen to award-winning actor RH Thomson, CM, read Mayse’s letter by clicking here.
How you can get involved: Pay tribute while away
- If you are travelling abroad, you can visit memorials that commemorate the sacrifices of Canadians in Europe, Asia and Africa. Some memorial sites even offer student-led tours and services on November 11. Visit Veterans Affairs Canada Memorials Overseas webpage to learn more.
How you can get involved: Pay tribute in your community
- True Patriot Love will be honouring Veterans and serving military by laying a wreath at the official memorial services in Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Regina, Winnipeg, Whitehorse and Victoria on November 11.
- To find a local Remembrance Day ceremony, check your municipality’s or local veteran’s association website.
Knowing and honouring the sacrifices of the past can strengthen our resolve to build a more peaceful world in the present and for the future.
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About the author: Officer, Communications