By Neale McDevitt
Thousands of Montrealers observed a moving ceremony involving dozens of soldiers and cadets and both pipe and brass bands on McGill’s lower campus Monday morning, paying tribute to Canada’s war veterans.
Elementary school children stood side by side with businesspeople, grey-haired veterans and University staff, students and faculty to take in the solemn proceedings. This year marks the 95th anniversary of the end of hostilities of World War I.
The hour-long ceremony had all the military trappings, from the bands and ranks of soldiers to a fly-by by a solo fighter jet and, of course, a 21-gun salute that reverberated across Montreal’s downtown core. Several days of wet weather could have turned the ceremony into a sloppy mess on the playing field, but strategically placed plywood sheets gave veterans, dignitaries and dozens of parading military personnel solid footing.
For the second straight year, a temporary cenotaph was erected on the southern end of the field and served as the focal point of the ceremonies. Four sentinels stood motionlessly at each corner of the cenotaph as a procession of people laid wreaths at its base.
McGill was represented by Principal Suzanne Fortier; Michael Di Grappa, Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance); and Kip Cobbett, Chairman of McGill’s Board of Governors. Other notable wreath layers included Denis Coderre, Montreal’s Mayor-elect; Members of Parliament Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet, (Hochelaga); Marc Garneau, (Westmount–Ville-Marie); Tyrone Benskin, (Jeanne-Le Ber); and Hélène Laverdière, (Laurier). The Royal Canadian Legion laid a wreath in the absence of a representative from the Provincial government.
Other wreaths were laid by representatives from regiments, branches of the Canadian Forces, police and fire departments, Concordia University, and various veterans’ groups.
Perhaps the most moving portion of the ceremony was the stirring rendition of The Last Post, after which people observed two minutes of silence in the brisk, chilly wind to honour those who have fallen in conflicts around the world. A number of the older veterans wiped away tears, bringing to mind lines from The Act of Remembrance, which was read during the ceremony:
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old,
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
(Click on the thumbnails below to view the enlarged photos)