Remembrance Day is a memorial day, which marks the anniversary of the official end of World War 1 at 11 am on November 11th (the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month) back in 1918. World War 1, also known as the Great War, was initiated in the year 1914. In Canada, Remembrance Day commemorates the sacrifices that brave Canadians have made not only during World War 1 but also during any armed conflicts including World War II and the Korean War.
The National War Memorial is a tall granite headstone representing an empty tomb of an unknown soldier with bronze sculptures that signifies all the Canadians lives that have been sacrificed or may yet do so for their country. This memorial also serves as the focal point where veterans gather for the annual Remembrance Day National Ceremony.
But you do not need to travel very far to engage in Canadian history and ceremonies. Right here in the Danforth Village, Remembrance Day is an important aspect of the community because it is home to the Royal Canadian Legion located on 9 Dawes Road. This particular location, known as East Toronto Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, has been an integral part of the East Toronto community for 90 years! The Royal Canadian Legion is the largest Veteran and community service and support organization in Canada. Its purpose is to serve our Nation through three platforms. First, the Legion provides services to veterans and their families such as obtaining disability benefits and program delivery to ensure quality of life and to ease the transition from service. The second purpose is community service, including outreach programs, education for children and fund raising. The last activity of the Legion is to promote remembrance to those who have given sacrifice in the service of our country and to those who continue to do so.
You have probably encountered one of the Legions well-recognized national events, the annual Poppy Crusade. The red poppy has been chosen as a visual pledge to those men and women who have sacrificed for our Country. The Legion offers Poppies to the public in return for a small donation and the funds are used to provide emergency housing, food, clothing, bus tickets, etc. The Poppy’s prominence is indebted to the famous poem In Flanders Fields, written by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, a field surgeon in the Canadian artillery. Flanders Field is one of the World War 1 battlefields in southwest Belgium. Prior to the war, few Poppies grew there, but during the war the soil became disrupted and rich in lime, conditions allowing the Poppy to thrive. McCrae wrote the poem as an expression of anguish over the loss of a fellow soldier and as a reflection of his surroundings, the battlefields where poppies grew over soldiers’ graves in the area of Flanders, France. Shortly after the end of the war the lime absorbed and the Poppy disappeared.
Today, thanks to millions of Canadians who wear the Poppy proudly as a visual pledge we continue to honour those Canadians who have served for our country. Various merchants located in the Danforth Village will have Poppies available. I encourage you to show your support by donating and proudly wearing your red Poppy to show respect for the current and past veterans. From the sacrifices of all the brave Canadian men and women, “We stand on guard for thee.”