OTTAWA – Canadians from coast to coast pause today to reflect on the sacrifices of wars long past and modern-day conflicts coming to end.
It’s a Remembrance Day for which Canada still has large numbers of troops deployed in harm’s way.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is scheduled to take part in the national ceremony at 11 a.m. ET in Ottawa, but will take a journey back in time to Crysler’s Farm, in nearby Morrisburg, Ont., later in the day.
The region was the scene of a pivotal battle in the War of 1812, where an American campaign through the St. Lawrence River valley was stopped cold by British, Canadian and aboriginal forces.
Fought on Nov. 11, 1813, the engagement is sometimes referred to as the battle that saved Canada, and involved as many as 12,000 troops.
The annual Remembrance Day ceremony at the National War Memorial is always well attended, but will have extra significance this year because Canadian soldiers have begun arriving home from Afghanistan.
A mission in Kabul to train Afghan soldiers, following five years of combat in Kandahar, is drawing to a close in March, and all boots are expected to be out of the war-ravaged country by summer.
In its recent throne speech, the Harper government promised to rededicate the national memorial, within sight of Parliament Hill, to the memory of all men and women who fought for the country in every conflict.
There has been a simmering debate about whether to carve the dates of the Afghan war into the massive granite structure, a notion resisted in some quarters of the federal government, including Veterans Affairs Canada.
During the First World War, roughly 68,000 Canadians were killed in four years of fighting.
The Second World War claimed a further 47,000 Canadian lives between 1939 and 1945.
The United Nations-led Korean war in the 1950s saw 516 give up their lives. An additional 1,800 Canadians have died either on UN peacekeeping missions, in Cold War training exercises — or in Afghanistan. There were 158 soldiers killed in that conflict.