An extra layer of poignancy and grief blanketed Canada this Remembrance Day as the nation commemorated not only those who had fallen in war but also marked the recent deaths of two soldiers killed by radicals inspired by the Islamic State, known as ISIS.
And as Canada prepared to remember its military dead, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) announced its intention to send plainclothes officers to ceremonies in Calgary and Edmonton, for the first time ever, CBC News reported. With the deaths of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, run down deliberately in a Quebec ambush on October 20, and of Corporal Nathan Cirillo, a reservist who was guarding the National War Monument when he was fatally shot on October 22, the horrors of war have been visited upon home turf, as journalist Richard Foot noted in an op-ed in The Globe and Mail.
In the United States, November 11 is Veterans Day, but Canada’s commemoration originated with the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I, marked throughout the British Commonwealth at 11 a.m. on November 11 each year—the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, as Veterans Affairs Canada details. Though it began right after the Boer War, the holiday took on new meaning at the end of WWI in 1918. It honors all who have served, but especially those who have not come home.
The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) also paid tribute to the two fallen soldiers.
“On this Remembrance Day we salute all Veterans and all men and women who continue to serve our country and keep us safe,” said Regional Chief Bill Erasmus in a statement. “We want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the late Corporal Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent killed on duty last month and offer again our sincere condolences to their friends and family. We remember those who lost their lives for our freedom, and continue to pay respect to all members of the armed forces.”
Although Aboriginal Veterans Day was celebrated on Saturday November 8, Erasmus did not miss an opportunity to remind the nation again that aboriginal warriors have been great defenders of and collaborators with Canada.
“As we pause to reflect on what Remembrance Day means to us, we call on everyone to consider the tremendous contributions and sacrifices made by First Nations people both in the past and today,” said Erasmus, who leads the AFN’s efforts on behalf of First Nation Veterans. “This year has a special resonance as the anniversary of the start of World War I, and we acknowledge the strength, skill and bravery of First Nation Veterans who fought for the freedom of all of us despite facing many barriers. Some of our people who enlisted traveled for days from remote communities in order to join the effort to protect this land that we have always called home. We acknowledge all the First Nations men and women and all citizens contributing to the armed forces in the past and today. The AFN will continue to push for adequate recognition and support for First Nation Veterans and for continued contributions to the armed forces. As allies to the British Crown by virtue of our existing Treaties our peoples enlisted in record numbers in Canada and the United States of America, with at least 4,000 volunteering for combat, to keep our home lands free.”