Why We Remember
Each year the City of Toronto holds Remembrance Day services to remember and pay respect to those who have given their lives in service to our country, helping to create and shape the rights and freedoms we enjoy today. In so doing, we also honour the men and women who have served and continue to serve our country in the Canadian Armed Forces.
Each element of the day’s program is symbolic and pays tribute to the courage, service and sacrifice of those who have served and continue to serve during times of war, conflict, as well as to maintain peace.
The sentries stand vigil at the four corners of the cenotaph or memorial with heads bowed and rifles reversed (known as reverse arms).
The sentries take their post prior to the commencement of the commemorative service and remain in position until the colours are marched off and they are dismissed.
The vigil sentries represent the different elements of the Canadian Armed Forces:
- Royal Canadian Navy
- Royal Canadian Air Force
The fourth sentry may be filled by sea, army, air cadets or by the RCMP.
The Old City Hall clock tower bells ring at 11 a.m. to mark the end of the First World War and the armistice that went into effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. This date is now known as Remembrance Day.
The Last Post is played by a bugler. It symbolizes the end of the day in the military.
Historically, it was played to let soldiers still on the battlefield know that fighting was over and that they should return to camp.
Today, in a commemorative service, the playing of The Last Post symbolizes the soldiers’ final call and summons their spirit to the cenotaph.
Playing it at the beginning of the ceremony indicates that the day’s proceedings are outside the norm, as it is a day of commemoration.
The ceremony starts with what is normally at the end of the day and ends with what is normally the start.
Two Minutes of Silence is the central element of Remembrance Day ceremonies. It is a time to pause and remember the service and sacrifice made by men and women who have given their lives in service to our country.
The Silence originated in Cape Town, South Africa, where there was a daily moment of silence, known as the Two Minute Pause. It was initiated by a daily firing of the noon day gun on Signal Hill. This action was instituted by the Cape Town Mayor on May 14, 1918. The first minute was a time of thanksgiving for those who had returned alive, the second was to remember the fallen.
In 1919, King George V asked that it be observed throughout the Commonwealth and it has been an important feature of remembrance ever since.
In Ontario, the Remembrance Week Act, 2016, encourages the voluntary observance by the people of Ontario to pause and observe two minutes of silence in honour of those who died serving their country in wars and in peacekeeping efforts.
The Lament titled The Lament to the Fallen is played by a piper to honour fallen soldiers.
The Scottish folk tune Flowers of the Forest commemorating the defeat of the Battle of Flodden in 1513, is often played at a funeral to honour the deceased.
The Rouse is played by a bugler. It is normally the first call sounded in the morning and used as a wake-up call for the soldiers.
During a Remembrance Day ceremony, it is played to signify the resurrection of the spirit of the fallen at the conclusion of the act of remembrance.
The flypast is a type of aerial salute that serves to pay respect to the fallen.
Canadian Harvard planes are flown in the missing man formation in memory of a fallen pilot.
- City of Toronto Honour Guard
- Toronto Police Service Ceremonial Unit
- Toronto Fire Services War Veterans Colour Guard
- Toronto Fire Services Honour Guard
- Toronto Paramedic Services Honour Guard
- Toronto Transit Commission Honour Guard
- Bylaw Enforcement Honour Guard
- Members of the Canadian Armed Forces
- Other Police Forces
- Veterans Organizations
- Legion Members
- Members of the Cadet Corps (Sea, Army, Air)