Keele Remembrance Day ceremony pays tribute to Canada’s veterans

On Wednesday, Nov. 11, members of the York University community paused to remember the men and women who gave their lives during the First and Second World Wars and in Afghanistan. More than 300 people attended the Remembrance Day service on the Keele campus.

The ceremony began with a processional from the Vari Hall Rotunda to the flagpole on the Harry Arthurs Common. Joining York faculty and staff in the processional and for the service were children from the York daycare and high-school students from nearby James Cardinal McGuigan Catholic Secondary School. Brian Urkosky, a pipe major with the Toronto Police Pipe Band, led the processional, and members of Canadian Forces 32 Canadian Brigade Group served as honour guards.

Right: Brian Urkosky, a pipe major with the Toronto Police Pipe Band, leads an honour guard from the Canadian Forces to the flagpole in the Harry Arthurs Common

This year, in addition to marking the 91st anniversary of the end of the First World War, the ceremony also paid special tribute to the 133 men and women of the Canadian Forces who have died while on duty as peacekeepers in Afghanistan.

The ceremony began with the singing of O Canada. Jessica Scarlato, Kristine Minchopoulos and Danielle MacMillan, student vocalists from the Department of Music in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, led everyone in singing the national anthem.

Then, as the flag snapped and billowed in the chilly November wind, York Vice-President Academic & Provost Patrick Monahan delivered the opening address. He recalled how as a boy growing up and participating in Remembrance Day ceremonies, past services had an historical quality to them. “We remembered and honoured those who had served and died for Canada for the liberties that we enjoy today,” said Monahan. In past years, he said, the services were about recalling events that took place long ago. “In recent years, these events and ceremonies have acquired a new relevance, particularly with the fact that our Canadian Forces now have men and women serving in Afghanistan. We now have men and women who have volunteered to serve their country and who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the combat in Afghanistan,” said Monahan.

Right: Patrick Monahan addresses the crowd gathered for Remembrance Day

“They bring home to us the fact that democracy and our system of freedom under law is not something that simply be assumed as inevitable or as a natural birthright. That in fact, the liberties and system of government that we have is something that is in place because of the efforts and sacrifices by Canadians, particular those in the Canadian Forces,” he said. “This day provides us with an opportunity to not simply recognize those in the past, but also to recognize the continuing relevance of these sacrifices. Through our participation today, we affirm that these sacrifices will always be remembered and honoured.”

“Canadians, as we all know, fought to the very end of the Second World War,” said Chancellor Roy McMurtry in his comments to those present. “And they have fought in other wars since seeking to establish peace, democracy, freedom and the well-being of humankind. Our soldiers continue to fight, helping to bring peace and stability to our troubled world. Today, we remember those who have served, those who fulfilled their duty and those who put the greater good before their own. We honour their memory.”

Left: York English Professor John Lennox lays a wreath on behalf of students and alumni

York Chancellor Emeritus Peter deCarteret Cory, a veteran of the Second World War, read the poem “High Flight” by Officer John Magee Jr. He was followed by Albert Tucker, professor emeritus and a veteran of the Second World War, who read Siegfried Sassoon’s 1918 poem “The Death-Bed”. Agnes Pyrek and Sizar Issar, both Grade 10 students from James Cardinal McGuigan Catholic Secondary School, read works they had written for Remembrance Day. Pyrek read her 2009 poem “Suffering” and Issa read a letter he wrote from the perspective of a solider after fighting at Vimy Ridge.

Lieutenant-Colonel Walter Perchal, former commanding officer of the Royal Regiment of Canada and a faculty member in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, read “Act of Remembrance” an excerpt from the 1914 poem “For the Fallen” by British author Laurence Binyon. Bugler Randall Pilson (BFA Spec. Hons. ’02) performed The Last Post. It was followed by two minutes of silence. Pilson then performed Reveille, and Lament was played by Urkosky.

Wreaths of remembrance were laid at the flagpole by Cory and Second Lieutenant Josh Bowen on behalf of the Canadian Forces; Canadian war veteran Ed Wilson on behalf of the Royal Canadian Legion; and York English Professor John Lennox and York student Daniel Burke, chair of york is U, on behalf of York students and alumni. McMurtry and Tucker laid a wreath on behalf of the University, and two students from James Cardinal McGuigan Catholic Secondary School laid a wreath on behalf of the community.

The ceremony concluded with God Save the Queen, sung by Scarlato, Minchopoulos and MacMillan. Following the ceremony, students from James Cardinal McGuigan Catholic Secondary School participated in a fireside chat with Cory, Tucker and Wilson. The veterans shared their stories of the Second World War with the students and answered questions.

Click here to read about Glendon’s Remembrance Day ceremony.

By Jenny Pitt-Clark, YFile editor