By Neale McDevitt
In a stirring, 90-minute Remembrance Day ceremony on McGill’s lower campus yesterday, more than 2,000 people paid tribute to fallen Canadian soldiers. The traditional two-minutes of silence commemorating the nation’s war heroes was broken by a 21-gun salute by four C3 howitzers that rattled nearby windows and set off car alarms.
Dozens of wreaths were placed on the temporary cenotaph installed at the southern end of the lower field. Included among the dignitaries and special guests to lay wreaths were Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay; The Honourable Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Minister of National Revenue and Minister of State (Agriculture and Agri-Food); Justin Trudeau, Member of Parliament for the riding of Papineau; and guest of honour Colonel Richard Lapointe. Provost Anthony Masi and Chancellor Arnold Steinberg represented McGill.
Organized by the Royal Canadian Legion, Quebec Command, Remembrance Day ceremonies are usually held at Place du Canada. However, ongoing renovations of Place du Canada and adjoining Dorchester Square left the ceremony bereft of a venue – until McGill stepped forward and offered its grounds.
The extra space allowed for a somewhat bigger ceremony, kicked off in style with the 24th Brigade marching band leading a parade of veterans and dignitaries up McGill College and onto campus.
The extra space also seemed to attract an extra large crowd, with people standing 20-25 deep to watch the proceedings. It also provided McGill students, faculty and staff the opportunity to take pay their respects to soldiers who gave their lives in the First and Second World Wars, the Korean War, Afghanistan and various peacekeeping missions.