With a view of Halifax Harbour, where Canadian ships once sailed to war, HMCS Scotian held its 40th Remembrance Day ceremony Friday morning at Point Pleasant Park.
Encircling the Halifax Memorial, hundreds attended the first ceremony without COVID-19-related restrictions since 2019. Personnel such as military veterans, serving HMCS Scotian members and young Royal Canadian Sea Cadets attended. HMCS Scotian is a reserve division of the Royal Canadian Navy based in Halifax.
The memorial service focuses on navy veterans who served Canada. The frigate HMCS Fredericton sat off the park’s shore as the service took place, firing a 21-gun salute after the two-minute moment of silence at 11 a.m.
The Signal spoke with several people at the ceremony to learn what Remembrance Day means to them.
John Micallef was the first veteran seated at the ceremony, there almost 30 minutes before the opening announcements. He said from his 33 years of navy service, he learned “all of it” about how heavy veterans’ sacrifices were during wartime.
“Remembrance Day means to respect the people who gave their lives and the people who sustained ours,” he said. “This is a day for the number of people that gave us the freedom that we now have.”
Micallef emigrated from England to Canada when he was 20, immediately enlisting in the Royal Canadian Navy.
He said most of the reason he enlisted was to honour his uncle. As a member of the British Royal Navy in the Second World War, Micallef’s uncle died when a German U-boat sank HMS Royal Oak in October 1939.
Growing up in England during that war, he survived the German air raids on the country. He compared it to the Russian Invasion of Ukraine today.
“What’s going on in Ukraine, we went through that when I was six years old.”
Since retiring 35 years ago, he now lives in Dartmouth, near where he first took on navy duties.
Alana Thibeault’s trumpet has led HMCS Scotian’s Remembrance Day ceremonies for the last 14 years. As the one who plays the Last Post and the Rouse, she has one of the ceremony’s most important duties.
“It’s always something I look forward to every year,” said Thibeault. She joined the naval reserves before learning to play the trumpet. She began playing at the ceremonies in place of recordings of the two bugle calls.
Thibeault said she’s an exception to most horn players in military ceremonies. While military musicians exist, she is self-taught and is a marine technician outside of her trumpet duties.
“People are always a little surprised to see me wearing this (marine technician) badge while doing the bugling,” she said.
Thibeault is devoted to her role in the annual ceremony, even sporting a tattoo reading “remembrance.” She said she puts the present day into perspective when remembering military veterans.
“Even if you don’t agree with everything going on in the country right now, we still need to remember that a lot of people died so we can live the way we do,” she said.
Fraser Grandy, 10, took the speaker’s podium briefly after the Rouse ended the two minutes of silence. He was up there for less than 30 seconds, leading those at the ceremony in a vow entitled the Commitment to Remember.
“We will remember them,” said Grandy in his speech. The crowd repeated that last line.
The Halifax boy enjoys public speaking and wanted to help honour the family members he has in the navy.
“My grampy was also in the army. Today is very important,” he said.
Naval Lieutenant Erin Rowe stood tall during the ceremony. To her right, her partner Chasta Boudreau kept a close watch over their dogs, Charlie and Archer. Archer is larger than Charlie but still young. At only eight months old, Friday was his first Remembrance Day ceremony.
“He likes to show his support,” Rowe said. Archer sported the Canadian Naval Ensign, or the Canadian flag stylized for navy use, on his leash.
As Charlie started barking and shaking, Rowe smiled as she tried to focus on how much the ceremony means to her.
“It’s because of all the freedoms and sacrifices people made. They sacrificed their tomorrow for our today,” she said.
Boudreau is a regular at many remembrance Day ceremonies. Along with Rowe, she has “many more family and friends” that have served Canada.
“It’s a time to reflect and to thank everybody who has served for us.”
Bruce Belliveau was glad to talk about the medals he earned during his 32-year stint with the navy. Two of his medals recognized his service during the Gulf War and the war in Afghanistan. He also received medals of recognition for his work under NATO command and peacekeeping in Yugoslavia.
“Remembrance Day is just one day on the calendar. To me, every day is Remembrance Day,” said Belliveau, who retired from service a decade ago.
Robert Henley is approaching Belliveau’s time in service. As a veteran in his 31st year with the Canadian Navy Reserves, he transferred to Halifax this year. He sported several medals as well, including for service in Haiti, with NATO and alongside American armed forces.
“Everybody wearing these uniforms is very respectful of the people who came before them,” Henley said. “They all know the duty and responsibility that lays on their heads.”
He said both of his grandfathers served in the Second World War, which has made his work feel special for him.
“I wanted to carry on that tradition.”
About the author
Luke Dyment is a Halifax-based reporter from Prince Edward Island. He has written for the Globe and Mail, The Signal and the Dalhousie Gazette....