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Burnaby remembers those who died in the line of duty

Mayor, councillors, veterans, RCMP, and citizens joined the Royal Canadian Legion parade and ceremony near Bonsor Park

Several streets in Metrotown were closed to traffic on Sat. Nov. 11, for the Royal Canadian Legion’s annual Remembrance Day parade. Residents of the area picked their way through tree branches and leaves strewn on the sidewalks, left behind by the storm the night before that left many Burnaby residents without power. Participants in the parade included members of the armed forces, RCMP, and Burnaby Fire. They started assembling at around 9:30am in front of the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch #83, South Burnaby at 5289 Grimmer St

The parade leaving the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #83’s location at 5289 Grimmer St. Photo: Lubna El Elaimy

At 10:20am a marching band with bagpipes and drums led the parade along Nelson Avenue. The procession reached the cenotaph at Bonsor Park about 15 minutes later. Yellow tape emblazoned with “Caution: Do not enter” surrounded the cenotaph area, to prevent public access. The cordoned-off area soon filled up with uniformed personnel as well as Mayor Mike Hurley and Coun. James Wang and Coun. Richard Lee among other elected officials. 

Steve Jeske, president of the Royal Canadian Legion South Burnaby Branch #83 took the podium and began with a recitation of a poem called The Soldier’s Request. “As I walk through the field in terrible fear, explosions and gunshots were all I could hear….I lost my life so you can be free, will you please remember the soldier and me,” he recited. Jeske then welcomed the government officials, firefighters, RCMP, St. John’s Ambulance, cadets, and everyone else present. “On this solemn occasion, we pay tribute to our serving members and our veterans, and honour the memories of those who stood on guard for us.” He then called on all present to sing “O Canada.” The band then played “The Last Post” and all attendees observed two minutes of silence to honour the dead. At that moment, the grey clouds dispersed and the sun came out. 

“They shall not grow old, as we who are left shall grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. With the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them, we will remember them,” Jeske said. After a cadet’s recitation of the poem In Flanders Fields by John McCrae, Reverend Graham Brownmiller, of the Jubilee United Church gave a scripture reading and speech. 

Cadets and wreaths in front of the Bonsor Park Cenotaph. Photo: Lubna El Elaimy

“Love is an action, a really difficult action. Love is a radical willingness to die not for close family members, or a child or a spouse, but for fellows who walk along the road with us," he said, adding that war is a sacred duty because it involves sacrifice for a higher cause and for others. 

Brownmiller added that for people who are not on the front lines dying for their country or their peers, a worthy sacrifice is to stand up for people who are typically marginalized by society and set aside one's prejudices. 

"Maybe laying down one’s life is an encouragement to embrace diversity.” He also said it is important to remember those who served while enduring prejudice, such as First Nations, LGBTQ+, Asian-Canadian, and Black Canadian veterans, “whose valour and commitment have been no less, even if they have been treated as lesser by others,” Brownmiller said. 

He finished his speech by saying that it is important to remember so that one day there may be peace and no more war. After a rendition of the hymn "Abide With Me," by Christine Sinclair, it was time to lay down the wreaths. Mayor Mike Hurley laid down a wreath on behalf of the City of Burnaby. Other officials who laid down wreaths included MLAs Anne Kang and Raj Shouhan, and Burnaby MPs Jagmeet Singh and Peter Julian. 

After the laying of the wreaths, attendees sang “God Save the King.” The event ended at around 12pm. 

This piece was made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

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