Thousands hold moments of silence on Remembrance Day in British Columbia

VANCOUVER — Thousands gathered at cenotaphs and war memorials across British Columbia on Monday to honour those who've served or made the ultimate sacrifice as part of Canada's military.

At Victory Square in Vancouver, the crowd held two-minutes of silence after the solemn sound of two trumpets playing the Last Post carried across the air.

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Cameron Cathcart, director of ceremonies, told those gathered that it was a moment in the ceremony when individual memories are rekindled and a time to honour the sacrifices of more than 45,000 Canadians who died during the Second World War fighting for freedom.

While the haunting song marked the end of the First World War, Cathcart said it has also become a symbol of each Remembrance Day since then, just like the poppy.

He asked the crowd to take the moment of silence to reflect on the wartime loss of loved ones or friends in battles or at home from injuries.

Priya Jeyasejar was in the crowd with her 10-year-old son and said she also likes to spend Remembrance Day honouring civilians living in war zones, past and present.

Jeyasejar said she fled to Canada from Sri Lanka during a civil war that claimed the lives of most of her cousins.

"Remembrance Day is to me very important because I have gone through civil war as a child," she said.

She's grateful to have made it to Canada, where she received a good education and can live in peace, she said.

Her family now tries to give back to Canada, she said. Her brother serves in the RCMP and her 12-year-old son is an Air Cadet, she said, pointing toward a crowd that would march in the post-ceremony parade.

Standing next to her, 69-year-old Gary Wesa said he has attended just about every ceremony in Vancouver since the 1980s.

Many residents of his hometown of Lipton, Sask., died at Vimy Ridge in the First World War. He said he also attends to honour the memory of his relatives who served at home and at sea in the Second World War.

"Major sacrifices were made to allow us to be here today," he said.

Korean War veteran Bill Newton, who's 89, said the ceremony is important for younger generations to understand that history.

"It's good to know our past history, how we got to where we're at," he said.

He has attended the ceremony every year for 33 years and said he tries not to get too down thinking about the war. He stays in touch with fellow veterans but said their numbers are dwindling.

"They're passing away pretty fast every year now, not too many of us left."

Ceremonies were also held in Victoria, Surrey, Merritt, Kelowna, New Westminster and other cities and towns across the province.

Premier John Horgan said in a statement that Remembrance Day is a time to reflect on the horrors of war, loved ones lost and the sacrifice of those who returned with injuries, both visible and invisible.

"For generations, Canadians have bravely risked their lives to protect ours. We must never forget their sacrifice. We must stand united against hate, violence and intolerance. And we must work together to build a more peaceful world."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 11, 2019.

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