March 21, 2021

On Sunday, March 21, the City of Toronto marked one year since the first death in Toronto as a result of COVID-19. Since then, more than 2,750 people have passed away from the virus in Toronto. To honour all the lives lost, the City hosted a virtual commemorative ceremony at sunset and lit candles in remembrance.


Mayor John Tory also declared March 21 as a Day of Remembrance for Lives Lost to COVID-19 in Toronto. To mark this day, flags at Toronto City Hall and other City buildings were lowered to half-mast, and this evening, the Toronto sign on Nathan Phillips Square, the CN Tower and Exhibition Place’s Princes’ Gates will be lit white in remembrance of the Torontonians who passed away from COVID-19. Faith Communities were invited to remember those that have been lost to the pandemic during their services over the weekend, according to their custom or tradition.


Additional details on the virtual commemorative ceremony:


  • The ceremony featured 2,753 candles, mostly LEDs, placed on Nathan Phillips Square’s ice rink. The total tea lights and pillar candles represent the total number of fatal cases of COVID-19 in Toronto since March 21, 2020.
  • The final 12 candles, which will be lit during the ceremony, represent each month of the year that has passed. The light from each of these candles will be augmented by spotlights directed into the sky in remembrance of the lives lost.
  • Throughout human history, different cultures and faiths adapted candle lighting to encompass a variety of meanings and traditions. The ritual of lighting a candle to pay tribute to a life lost has long been a part of many cultures. In the absence of a candle, keeping a light on in remembrance signifies that the memory still lives on and burns bright. It is a ritual that promotes reflection and signifies remembrance. The use of light out of the darkness is a meaningful and visual remembrance.
  • The candle and light memorial will remain at Nathan Phillips Square throughout the evening, until midnight, for photographs, footage or as a backdrop for media purposes.
  • During the ceremony, a bell will toll as each of the last 12 candles are lit. The use of a mourning bell symbolizes the deaths in each of the past 12 months.
  • Toronto-based blues vocalist and actress Shakura S’Aida will read from the poem, “Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep” by Margaret Elizabeth Frye, and sing, “Amazing Grace” to close the ceremony.
  • Torontonians watching at home are encouraged to turn on a porch and/or balcony light or place a light in the window in remembrance of the lives lost as a result of the pandemic.
  • Those participating are encouraged to share their light on social media platforms using #TOreflects.
  • The following chart represents the number of COVID-19-related deaths in Toronto over the past 12 months, according to Toronto Public Health:


Month Number of deaths in Toronto*
March 2020 16
April 2020 618
May 2020 463
June 2020 142
July 2020 48
August 2020 6
September 2020 10
October 2020 99
November 2020 243
December 2020 366
January 2021 444
February 2021 195
March 2021 75
No date entered 28
Total 2,753*

*As of March 20, 2021


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