What are we remembering on Remembrance Day?

Commemorative poppies laid at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and a photograph of a soldier among the poppies.

Poppies  by Benoit Aubry.  CC BY

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November 11 is Remembrance Day in Canada. It is also called Armistice Day.

What are we remembering?

We are remembering the soldiers who fought in the first World War. November 11, 1918 at 11 am was the moment the Armies stopped fighting.

We are also honouring those who continue to serve in war, military conflict, and international peacekeeping missions. We are thanking them for risking their lives to keep world peace.

It is called Veteran’s Day in the US, also celebrated on November 11.

Is it a holiday?

It is a federal statutory holiday. Federally regulated employees do not have to work on this day. It is not a statutory holiday in Manitoba. But there are rules for business and requirements for paying employees who work on November 11.

Schools, civic offices, public libraries, recreation centres, banks and credit unions are closed. Grocery stores, shopping malls, museums and galleries open at 1 p.m. Check before you go.

How do Canadians celebrate it?

Government buildings fly the Canadian flag on this day. Most people stay silent for two minutes at 11 a.m. A program called National Remembrance Day is held at the National War Memorial in Ottawa. Veterans from all wars and peace support operations, dignitaries, Canadian Armed Forces, RCMP, members of the Diplomatic Corps and youth representatives attend it. You can go there or watch it on TV. This ceremony will be back in full with a grand Veterans’ Parade and a fly-past this year.

People pin a red flower on their clothes before Remembrance Day. This is the poppy flower. It shows respect for the Canadian troops. The Royal Canadian Legion gives out the pins for a donation. Find them at public places like grocery stores or malls. Donations go to the Legion’s Poppy Fund. It helps serving and retired veterans and their families.

Why poppies?

The poppy became a symbol of remembrance after World War I (WWI). The poem “In Flanders Fields” inspired it. “In Flanders Fields” was written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian doctor. The poem describes red poppies in the fields growing in the middle of loss and death during the war. It became a symbol of respect for the troops in Canada, Great Britain, the nations of Commonwealth, and the United States.

“In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae (recited by Leonard Cohen)
from Legion Magazine

Article updated October 17, 2023.
Sources: Statutory Holidays Canada; The Canadian War Museum; The Royal Canadian Legion; and The Story of the Poppy (The Royal British Legion). Retrieved October 24, 2016.

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