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'It came at a cost': Veterans honoured at Montreal Remembrance Day ceremony

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Hundreds of people gathered in downtown Montreal on Saturday at the cenotaph to pay their respects to Canadian veterans and make sure their sacrifices were remembered. 

Cannon blasts rattled the bones of the crowd who donned red poppies before there was a moment of silent reflection for this year's Remembrance Day ceremony at Place du Canada.

Quebec Premier François Legault, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, and the federal immigration minister, Marc Miller, were among the dignitaries who were present as wreaths were laid to pay tribute to the men and women who fought for Canada.

"All the male members of my family were in the Black Watch and I served with them and it's a special day because not all of them are with us," said Thomas D. Irvine, the Legion's command president.

Among those watching beneath the square’s brass-coloured tree canopy was Paul Hebert, a 56-year-old veteran who served for 33 years in the Armed Forces, first for the Canadian Grenadier Guards and then for the military police. He said he plans to attend Remembrance Day events every year for as long as he can.

"This is an annual event that should be done for forever in time where … we remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, those who served our country since 1867 to today," Hebert said.

"This is why I’m here and I’ll be here every year for the rest of my time."

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces march during a Remembrance Day ceremony in Montreal, Saturday, November 11, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

In the crowd, many more came to remember members of their families who served

"My father served in WWII. He went to war when he was 16. He lied about his age, joined the Royal Canadian Navy and he served in the North Atlantic for four years," said John Osier

"A lot of them made the ultimate sacrifice so you've got to be here and pay your respects."

People look on during a Remembrance Day ceremony in Montreal, Saturday, November 11, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Every year, there are fewer veterans from that era and others had a message to the younger generations.

"Just take it upon yourselves to actually learn the history and the background of your families and why we have freedoms. It came at a cost," said Laura Latour, whose father served in the Second World War and whose grandfathers fought in the First World War.

For serving members of the armed forces, the day holds a special meaning as well.

"Myself, I served in Afghanistan but it's not something I walk around advertising or that people know necessarily so on a day like today where we're able to come out with our medals and people are able to see that people have been places and done things, that's where we get a chance to be recognized," said Cpt. Andrew Albert with the Canadian Armed Forces.

"I've travelled all over the world but this is my home and this is where I want to be on this day."

"The purpose of the Remembrance Day service is to honour our veterans who sacrificed their lives for our freedom plus to honour the veterans that came back never the same," added Terrance Deslage, Legion Quebec Command Vice-President.

The Quebec premier spoke after the somber ceremony about why thanking those who serve in uniform is important.

"We must always remember that war must be a last resort. But unfortunately, there are times when we can't avoid it. At one point, we thought there would be no more war, but when we look at what's happening in Ukraine, what's happening in certain places in the world, we need our soldiers, and we have to say thank you to all those who enlist in the army," Legault said.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault, centre, alongside his wife Isabelle Brais and Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante, right, attend a Remembrance Day ceremony in Montreal, Saturday, November 11, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Meanwhile, a federal ceremony took place in Ottawa.

"Remembrance Day is an opportunity to recognize members of the Canadian Armed Forces who have courageously answered the call of duty. When it was needed most, they left behind their families and homes," Trudeau said in a Remembrance Day statement.

"Many returned with severe trauma — or didn’t return at all. Their sacrifice is a debt that we can never repay."

With files from CTV News Montreal's Matt Gilmour and The Canadian Press

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