Remembrance Day 2018 will be particularly poignant and that is especially the case in the City of Markham, where the occasion will be significant for an additional reason.
11 November, 2018 will mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. It was a global conflict unlike any that preceded it; lasting four years, involving countries from all around the globe, and resulting in the deaths of over 9 million military personnel (including around 60,000 Canadians) and around 8 million civilians.
The war also played a major part in shaping Canadian identity. As part of the British Empire, Canada was called upon to assist and over 600,000 Canadians served and gained a reputation for bravery. During the Battle of Vimy Ridge in April 1917, the four divisions of the Canadian Corps secured the vital high ground of Vimy Ridge despite suffering heavy casualties. It was the first time that all four divisions had fought together and was seen as a defining point in the history of Canada, with Brigadier-General Alexander Ross later observing:
“It was Canada from the Atlantic to the Pacific on parade. I thought then… that in those few minutes I witnessed the birth of a nation.”
While the last known World War I veteran died six years ago, the impact of the war is still felt today and the memory of the fallen is as important as it was 100 years ago. That’s why there will be sombre and emotional ceremonies throughout the country, with people looking back on the heroics of the soldiers who gave their lives during this war and other conflicts involving Canadian forces.
In Markham, commemoration services for the Markham District Veterans Association will be focused around the Markham Cenotaph, notable for the recent changes to the city’s main war memorial. In June this year, the city unveiled a new, revitalized cenotaph and Veterans Square alongside it.
As part of the Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program set up to celebrate the 150th anniversary of confederation, the federal government provided $950,000 to fund the transformation of the memorial space into a “revitalized, vibrant and multifunctional space to honour Markham Veterans that made the ultimate sacrifice for Canada.”
The transformation saw the main cenotaph rehabilitated and placed at the centre of a new public space, which is located on the south-east corner of Highway 7 and Main St (Hwy 48), outside Markham Village Library. The cenotaph stands tall in the centre of the revitalized plaza and bears a plaque with the inscription:
“Lest We Forget
In honour of those who serve
In remembrance of those who fell
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them”
The cenotaph is surrounded by a large circle of maple leaves. Aside from the cenotaph, the new public space also has a hospice garden and a rather unique second memorial that bears a large cross cut out of stone and surrounded by eight columns. Meanwhile, the war memorial inside the library was also preserved during the transformation, providing another space to honour Canada’s fallen soldiers.
If you wish to attend the service and pay your respects to the fallen, the Remembrance Day Event takes place at the revitalised cenotaph, beginning at 10:00am on 11 November. As part of the event, the Markham District Veterans Association will perform a short march from their headquarters on Washington Street to the cenotaph, which is around 200m away, in time for the 11:00am service.
If you can’t make it to that location, there are many other Remembrance Day services being held throughout the GTA. In Toronto there will be civic services held in seven locations across the city, including Old City Hall, Fort York National Historic Site, Etobicoke Civic Centre Cenotaph, and the Toronto Centre for the Arts in North York. In Richmond Hill, the town’s official service will take place at the Richmond Hill Cenotaph (10100 Yonge St.) and the ceremony will also include the unveiling of a new life-size bronze statue of a soldier that will be known as the Veteran Statue.
In Vaughan, a parade will march to the Woodbridge Cenotaph in the picturesque surroundings of Memorial Park on Wallace Street, where the Mackenzie Branch 414 of the Royal Canadian Legion will hold its service. Meanwhile, in Mississauga the city’s main Remembrance Day service is being held at Celebration Square (300 City Centre Drive). All events are open to the public and residents are encouraged to attend and pay their respects to fallen soldiers.