TORONTO – Tucked away from the noise and traffic of the Nearby Gardiner Expressway, the ordinarily plaintive Strachan Avenue Military Cemetery comes to life on November 11 of each year, as the host of one of Toronto’s most well-attended Remembrance Day ceremonies.
The event’s high turnout, year after year, is no surprise when you consider the cemetery’s considerable military pedigree. In addition to being the third-oldest military burial ground in Toronto, with a history that dates back to 1863, the cemetery is also located on the western edge of Garrison Common – one of several key battlefields upon which the Battle of York – a pivotal conflict of the War of 1812 – took place in the spring of 1813.
Interestingly, the cemetery as we see it today – a touching and accessible monument-style gathering place – may not have existed, if it were not for a 1921 Star Weekly article describing the state of disrepair that had overcome the burial grounds over the years following the British troops’ departure in 1870.
In 1922, after an extensive renovation of the grounds by Toronto’s Parks Department, a local philanthropic organization called the Imperial Order of Daughters of the Empire donated a bronze plaque to the area. Exactly 30 years later, they organized the first Remembrance Day ceremony at the site – an annual tradition that continues to this day, in cooperation with Heritage Toronto.
As one of only a few military memorials located near Toronto’s Waterfront, the Strachan cemetery provides a crucial gathering spot in which the residents of the area’s many new high-rise communities may honour and remember Canada’s fallen, without having to walk too far from home or work.
Accessible via the Common’s West Gate (off of Strachan Avenue, just south of the rail bridge), this year’s Remembrance Day event will begin at 10:45 AM, with a uniformed military procession that will make its way from nearby Fort York towards the cemetery. A traditional eleventh-hour ceremony will be followed by a reception at the Fort York Museum Centre (just southeast of the cemetery), which members of the public are invited to attend.
For more details on Remembrance Day and a glance at the Fort York grounds’ additional upcoming events and exhibits, check out their official calendar online at: http://www.fortyork.ca/news-a-events/events.html