Lest we forget… The period around Remembrance Day (November 11) each year is a time to reflect on the sacrifices of Canadian soldiers. Usually, veterans of all ages, as well as residents and visitors, gather in Canada’s capital region for special events and ceremonies.
In 2021—which notably marks the Poppy’s 100th year as a symbol of Remembrance—some in-person commemorations are being held as usual or have been modified, while others are being hosted online. Here are some of the events being hosted in Canada’s capital that you can attend this year to pay your respects.
National Remembrance Day Ceremony
Update announced on November 5, 2021: The public is allowed to attend the 2021 National Remembrance Day Ceremony although they will need to remain distanced and wear a mask for health and safety purposes.
Each year on November 11, the Royal Canadian Legion hosts the National Remembrance Day Ceremony at the National War Memorial in Ottawa to commemorate the men and women who have served in Canada’s military. The ceremony starts at approximately 10:45 a.m. with the arrival of dignitaries such as the Prime Minister, the Governor General of Canada, and the Silver Cross Mother – a woman whose child has died while serving in the military. Additional programming includes the national anthem, two minutes of silence, a wreath-laying ceremony and a rousing fly-past (weather permitting). At the end of the National Ceremony and throughout the day, people remove poppies from their coats and place them on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The tomb is covered in red poppies by the end of the day.
Thousands of people gather, rain or shine, to pay their respects to veterans during this very moving event. Crowds can hear the proceedings over loud speakers and have the option to watch a live feed on the jumbo screens. The event is also broadcast nationally on television and the Legion’s Facebook page.
Virtual Poppy Drop and Virtual Wall of Honour
The Royal Canadian Legion is presenting its annual Poppy Drop on iconic landmarks in Ottawa from October 29 to November 11, 2021. Each evening from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. (until midnight on Nov. 11), thousands of falling virtual poppies will be projected onto Parliament’s Peace Tower and nearby Senate building—one poppy for each of Canada’s fallen veterans. During the same period, a Virtual Wall of Honour displays thousands of photographs of late veterans on large screens on Parliament Hill.
As a complement to the virtual Poppy Drop display, the National Arts Centre’s Kipnes Lantern also presents cascading poppies on the evening of November 11.
Programming at the Canadian War Museum
The Canadian War Museum, situated just west of downtown, is a living memorial to Canada’s proud military history. In 2021, the museum offers in-person Remembrance Programming from November 3 to 7, and from November 10 to 14 (closed Mondays and Tuesdays). The Memorial Hall will be open during that period, except for its closure on the morning of November 11 to allow for the livestreaming of the sun illuminating the headstone of Canada’s unknown soldier at 11:00 a.m.
In person visits for Remembrance Programming and the rest of the museum require timed admission tickets, including on November 11 when admission is free. Virtual options include exhibition content, videos and live presentations.
Just east of downtown Ottawa, an annual ceremony of Remembrance takes place at the National Military Cemetery from 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on November 11; it will also be livestreamed online. The Annual Remembrance Day Service on the grounds of the Beechwood Cemetery honours all those who have fallen in the service of Canada and all Canadian Forces members interred at the cemetery. A children’s choir will be performing.
You can also explore the cemetery’s historical and botanical aspects at any time. Take a self-guided tour any day of the year by following the printed or digital pamphlet. Or join the free guided historical tour called “The Beechwood Stroll” on the fourth Sunday of each month between April and October. See the Beechwood Cemetery’s event calendar for details.
Commemoration sites and monuments
You can reflect at any time of year by visiting some of the many Ottawa sites that honour Canada’s military. These include the Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae Statue (which honours the man behind the famous WWI poem In Flanders Fields), as well as monuments dedicated to the War of 1812, Indigenous soldiers, and even animals in war.
A special program called Operation Veteran ensures that veterans eat for free at the Canadian War Museum every day the Museum is open. Every year, the program also invites students from across Canada to attend the Remembrance Day wreath-laying ceremony at the National War Memorial and a special tour of the War Museum, where students have the opportunity to talk to veterans.