Remembrance Day in Iqaluit: ‘Veterans know the price paid for our freedom’
With fewer surviving veterans, it falls to the rest of us to ensure their sacrifices aren’t forgotten, says legion member
Remembrance Day in Iqaluit can be a challenge — for veterans, for the Royal Canadian Legion, and for Canadians.
“It’s hard,” said Stephen Tucker, a veteran of the Afghanistan War, who now works for Northwestel in Iqaluit.
Tucker was a lineman for the Canadian Forces nearly 20 years ago. He helped maintain the telephone poles and electricity poles, part of the infrastructure that kept the military in contact in the war-torn country.
From 2001 to 2014, Canada was part of the international mission that toppled the Taliban government after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.
Today, Tucker does similar lineman work with Nunavut’s telecommunications company. He said he feels alone on Remembrance Day because his friends are in the south.
“I really struggle. There’s not a lot of veterans here now,” he said, wearing a beret with the cap badge of the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals, based in Kingston, Ont.
He paused for a moment at the war memorial in front of Iqaluit’s legion branch on his way into the annual service inside Cadet Hall.
As he walked into the hall, about 20 RCMP officers in full-dress red serge uniforms and Canadian Rangers arrived, following their brief march from the police detachment around the corner on Sivumugiaq Street.
Chief Supt. Andrew Blackadar brought the parade to a halt long enough to discuss whether they would wear their trademark Stetson hats into the hall or remove them.
About 300 people filled the hall Saturday morning, in time for the traditional moment of silence at 11 a.m. that marks the exact time on Nov. 11, 1918 that fighting in the First World War ended.
Remembering the efforts and sacrifices of all Canada’s war dead and its veterans is becoming increasingly challenging because so few Canadians have experienced war, said the legion branch’s first vice-president Jarrod Selkirk.
“As most people in Canada today have never experienced war, remembrance becomes a challenging concept to incorporate. How do you remember something that they’ve never known?” Selkirk said.
Some people have learned from older relatives about what it’s like to live during wartime, while immigrants to Canada saw the country as a haven from their war-torn homelands.
“But the vast majority of us, especially the youth, have no first-hand or even second-hand knowledge of war. And thankfully so,” Selkirk said.
His message was translated into Inuktitut and delivered by intepreter Ooleepika Ikkidluak.
It’s important for Canadians to pause on Remembrance Day because the responsibility for honouring the sacrifices of veterans is now shifting from veterans themselves to all Canadians, Selkirk said.
“Veterans know the price paid for our freedom and they want all Canadians to share in this understanding. In fact, now more than ever, they’re passing the torch on to us — on to all Canadians — to ensure that the memory of the efforts and sacrifices will not die with them,” Selkirk said.
About three-dozen wreaths were laid in memory of Canada’s war dead. They were placed by Nunavut leaders, including Commissioner Eva Aariak, Sen. Dennis Patterson, MP Lori Idlout, Premier P.J. Akeeagok and Iqlauit Mayor Solomon Awa.
Members of the 795 Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron placed wreaths on behalf of other agencies and businesses.
Iqaluit’s youth were represented in the service. Cadet Flight Sgt. Meriva Manebou read the traditional remembrance poem, In Flanders Fields, while Flight Sgt. Katie Yu read the Remembrance Act.
Trumpeter Newkinga Moss performed Remembrance Day traditions, the Last Post, and the Rouse.
Rev. Chris Dow, the Anglican priest at St. Jude’s Cathedral, led a prayer, alternating between English and Inuktitut.
“God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble,” Dow said, reading from Psalm 46.
“God causes wars to end throughout the earth. He breaks the bow and snaps the spear; he burns the shields with fire.”