In advance of this years Remembrance Day ceremonies Veterans Affairs Canada has organized a weeks worth of events and activities to help remember the Canadian Veterans lost in conflicts around the world.
Scott Ferris, director of membership and marketing at Legion Dominion command in Ottawa says that the National Remembrance Day Ceremony this year will be a fitting tribute for Canada’s veterans.
“The ceremony is very well in hand, weather wise it looks fantastic we are expecting two fly pasts to take place. We have modern aircraft as well as some world war two era aircraft. We have a very large group of veterans taking place this year and everything you’d expect associated with the ceremony should be present. It should be a great day, a somber one but a great day,” says Ferris.
Ferris and the rest of the staff at Dominion Command are also co-ordinating with legions all over the country to throw various remembrance events. These events start the fifth of November and lead up to Remembrance Day. These events vary from traditional wreathe laying ceremonies to plays, musical performances and talks from veterans of all ages.
On the east coast Veterans week ceremonies include performances in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland of Jake’s Gift, a play written and starred in by Julia Mackey and directed by her husband Dirk Van Stralen.
The play focuses on the experiences of a young girl on vacation after she meets a terse elderly veteran. The play focuses on the developing relationship between a young girl who sees a much more cinematic glorified vision of the veterans experiences and Jake who sees the horrific costs of war.
“The essence of the play is about passing on the legacy of remembrance thats what the little girl Isabel, and Jake represent”, says Mackey.
The play took shape for Mackey during a research trip to Normandy where she had the chance to spend time with veterans that had served in the D-Day invasions.
“I sewed together as many stories as I could and basically this one guy became Jake. His name was Fred Rogers. He was an artillery man and landed on D-Day. So I sewed all that and that trip being over there was one of the most moving experiences of my life and I just felt like sharing it. I definitely knew I had gone to the rift place to tell the rest of that story,” said Mackey.
Mackey says that the response to the veterans week shows has been overwhelming. The play has been received very positively by audiences across the country but the reactions of veterans young and old has been very positive. It also gives veterans, students and civilians a chance to mix together and talk about the play and their experiences.
“I think they seem to be very moved… I think they’re moved because it’s their story but by the fact Isabella is so interested in their life and what they did during the war. The idea that someone young recognizes the sacrifices they have made and appreciates them,” says Mackey
In Vancouver the award winning Chor Leoni mens choir will be performing veterans week concerts leading up to Remembrance day. The choir started in 1992 under the tutelage of Diane Loomer and quickly grew into Canada’s premier mens choir.
Over the years the focus of their repertoire has changed. The choir started out singing traditional remembrance day songs and since has started to incorporate more contemporary material into their performances.
“Our initial Remembrance Day concerts were very war-centric and included medleys of ‘songs soldiers sing.’ While successful, they seemed very focused on death and war. They were also not representative of the make up of the actual choir – at the time we actually had members who had fled the US to avoid the draft – and we had several members who were from a very Pacifist background,” says choir marketing manager Bruce Hoffman.
Hoffman says that the change in repertoire has helped make the choir more accessible to younger Canadians.
In Edmonton Maureen Purvis’ third annual No Stone Left Alone event takes place on Remembrance day.It started as a family tradition when Purvis lost her mother at the age of 12. In honour of her mother Purvis would leave her poppy on her mothers headstone every remembrance day. Slowly this tradition became a family affair and then, at the urging of her daughter, Purvis contacted the department of Veterans Affairs and pitched her idea.
“We got everyones blessing immediately. We were put to great contacts at the minister of education here in Alberta who then turned us on to the proper two schools to start with and it’s just snowballed from there,” says Purvis.
There are now 19 participating cemeteries in Alberta involved in the program and one running a test run in Jasper, Alt this year.
In Toronto several events are planned including a rededication of the Central Technical School war monument at Harbord Street and Bathurst Street. Originally CTS was to celebrate the 75th anniversary of alumni in 2014. The CTS Alumni say that this is very important as the last of the WWI veterans have passed and WWII veterans are pushing into their 90’s to honour the service of these people.
“Some of our members were asking if we could do some celebrating ahead of time. Many World War II vets are getting into their nineties,” says Robert Longworth.
For more information about Remembrance Day events you can check out the new Royal Canadian Legion website at: www.legion.ca/