In 2019, I had the privilege, on behalf of the Union of Veterans Affairs Employees, to lay a wreath at the November 11th Remembrance Day ceremonies in Ottawa.  It was the first time I was going to be actually involved in the ceremony.  It was a cold morning and not knowing what to expect I arrived at the venue looking lost.  One of the dedicated volunteers came up to me and offered help, which I gratefully accepted.  He walked me to the spot where I could pick up the wreath and explained the process to me.  I was a bit apprehensive as I did not want to commit a faux pas and embarrass the UVAE members. 

Standing among these great people the emotions are overwhelming.  You get to meet veterans whose stories you hear first hand, you watch the pride on their face, you see some tears, you see some sorrow, you hear about those who are no longer here.  You feel part of this great family, and as soon as the ceremonies start your feelings become more somber more intensified, you feel so  insignificant compared to those standing there who have sacrificed everything.  A quote I had once read keeps playing in my mind “I’m proud to be Canadian, where at least I know I am free and I won’t forget the ones who died, who gave this right to me.”, (John G. Diefenbaker)

November 11 is a day when we honour and remember Canadian men and women from all communities who served and sacrificed for our great country, Canada, in times of war and peace and the efforts to fight for freedom.  It was first observed in 1919 throughout the British Commonwealth – referred to as “Armistice Day” commemorating the agreement that ended the First World War on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918.

From 1921 to 1930 Armistice Day was observed on the Monday in which November 11th fell.  In 1931, a Bill was introduced by Alan Neill, Member of Parliament for Comox-Alberni, and passed by the House of Commons to observe Armistice Day only on November 11th  and change the name to “Remembrance Day”.  The Poppy is the symbol of Remembrance Day.

On this day we should not forget that minority groups played a vital role during the various wars as they were eager to serve and protect the country they lived in, Canada.  They had to face a lot of difficulties and prejudices in being accepted into the Canadian Forces and receiving the same respect and benefits as other Canadians.  However, their perseverance paid off and they played a vital role both on the battlefield and  behind the scenes, such as fund raising, organizing patriotic leagues, knitting and sewing socks and sweaters for soldiers, nursing, war supply production – weapons, ammunition and shipbuilding, etc.

Men and Women stood and worked side by side proudly to serve their homeland and contribute in whatever way they could.  We stand proud for these Canadians and bow our heads in silence to honour their sacrifices.

Zarina Khan,
On behalf of the Human Rights Committee,