By Neale McDevitt
Addressing the hundreds of military personnel and veterans standing at attention before the cenotaph on lower campus and the throngs of spectators that ringed the field to watch yesterday’s Remembrance Day ceremonies, Chancellor Michael A. Meighen paid homage to two of Canada’s latest military casualties.
“Recent events have made us realize how our soldiers can be in harm’s way, even when on duty at home here in Canada,” he said referring to Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo – two soldiers killed here in Canada in two separate attacks days apart. “Ils portent ce lourd fardeau en notre nom ‒ afin de défendre nos valeurs et la démocratie au pays et à l’étranger, pour faire ou maintenir la paix, et pour venir en aide à ceux qui sont dans la tourmente ou en danger.
“Our debt to them is enormous.”
In light of the tragic deaths of Vincent and Cirillo, the normally somber Remembrance Day ceremonies throughout Canada were particularly poignant. But, the tragedies also seemed to galvanize the public, who, it was reported, showed up in record numbers from coast to coast to pay their respect to Canada’s war veterans.
McGill’s ceremony was no exception. Several thousand people, young and old, gathered on lower campus, ringing the field were the temporary cenotaph had been installed. Onlookers packed the MacLennan Library terrace, taking pictures and videos of the stirring scene below where soldiers and cadets and both pipe and brass bands honoured their fallen comrades.
The hour-long ceremony had its share of pomp and circumstance, complete with a flyover of the downtown campus by a pair of military helicopters. But, skirl of the bagpipes notwithstanding the ceremony was decidedly quieter than in years past as there was no 21-gun salute.
The focal point of the ceremony was the cenotaph erected on the southern end of the field. Four sentinels – representing the three services, army, navy and air force, plus the RCMP – stood motionless at each corner of the cenotaph as a procession of people laid wreaths at its base.
McGill was represented by Principal Suzanne Fortier; Michael A. Meighen, Chancellor; Michael Di Grappa, Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance); and Kip Cobbett, Chairman of McGill’s Board of Governors. Other notable wreath layers included Pierre Duchesne, Lieutenant Governor of Quebec; Senator Jacques Demers; Denis Coderre, Mayor of Montreal; and Members of Parliament Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet, (Hochelaga); Marc Garneau, (Westmount–Ville-Marie); Tyrone Benskin, (Jeanne-Le Ber); and Hélène Laverdière, (Laurier-St.-Marie).
This was the second Remembrance Day ceremony hosted by McGill in less than a week. On Nov. 6, Macdonald Campus, along with John Abbott College, held its own event at the permanent War Memorial on campus. There, hundreds of onlookers – including a large contingent of elementary and high school students – came out to honour the nation’s war veterans.
At the Mac ceremony, Chandra Madramootoo, Dean of the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences implored the crowd to create a better world by rejecting intolerance and prejudice. “We must build and we must continue to fight for a fair society, a just society in which everyone has respect for different religions, for peoples of different races, for people of different beliefs,” he said.
For full coverage of the Remembrance Day ceremony at Macdonald Campus, go here.
Click to enlarge each picture from the Remembrance Day ceremony on lower campus.