Veterans who have considered suicide noted in national Remembrance Day service

Studies suggest veterans are more at risk than active service members

Thousands of Canadians stood in the biting cold for national Remembrance Day services on Saturday as the military’s senior chaplain delivered a powerful message to those struggling with thoughts of suicide as a result of their time in uniform.

Clad in the white robes of his office, Brig.-Gen. Guy Chapdelaine prayed for those who died defending the country and its way of life before turning to “soldiers suffering from injuries visible and invisible.”

“We pray for all those who because of the strain of life have considered or attempted suicide,” Chapdelaine said as the large crowd gathered around the National War Memorial stood in respectful silence.

“Inspire us to take meaningful action to understand, address and reduce the risk of suicide and be a supportive, compassionate support to our comrades and loved ones at risk. Help us to give them hope.”

It was a poignant moment, and one that resonated with many in attendance as Canada tries to come to grips with the psychological toll that war has taken on many of its current and former military personnel.

“It’s very important that it is put out there for people,” said Cpl. Robert Vincent, who travelled from Pembroke, Ont., to attend the ceremony in Ottawa with his family.

“There will be people all over Canada watching this today and elsewhere as well. So it’s important that the message is said here. Any chance we get to help out a veteran is great.”

PHOTOS: Thousands gather across B.C. for Remembrance Day

It was also a timely message as only last month, the government released a plan aimed at combating suicide and improving mental health among military members and veterans.

More than 130 serving military personnel have taken their own lives since 2010, according to the government, including eight who died between January and August this year.

Officials say the military suicide rate is roughly the same as the general population, but there are exceptions: those who serve in the army, for example, are up to three times more likely to kill themselves.

The government doesn’t know exactly how many veterans kill themselves each year, but previous studies have suggested they are more at risk than active members.

Chapdelaine’s words also underscored the changing nature of Remembrance Day, as veterans from the Second World War and Korea pass the torch to those who came after — and who face their own unique challenges.

The crowd started gathering early under a brilliant blue sky before a parade of military personnel and veterans marched onto the plaza in front of the monument.

The number of veterans in the parade was painfully small. Gone were the long lines of veterans from the Second World War and Korea. In their stead were former peacekeepers and those who served in Afghanistan.

Saturday’s ceremony also saw a different changing of the guard, as Julie Payette marked her first Remembrance Day as Canada’s governor general after replacing David Johnston last month.

Following what has become an established tradition, the former astronaut, who was escorted by her son Laurier Payette, wore an air force uniform as commander-in-chief.

Sophie Gregoire Trudeau was also on hand, filling in for her husband, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is travelling in Asia.

The prime minister joined a special ceremony at a hotel in the Vietnamese city of Danang on Saturday.

Trudeau recited the French poem, “Le dormeur du val,” and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland read “In Flanders Fields.” A bugler then played “Last Post” and the room sang the national anthem.

Among those who placed wreaths during the Ottawa ceremony was the Silver Cross Mother, Diana Abel, representing all bereaved mothers. Abel’s son, Michael, was killed while serving in Somalia in 1993.

READ: Millennials more likely to attend Remembrance Day ceremonies: poll

Icy temperatures also prevailed in Toronto where hundreds of people gathered to pay their respects in the downtown core. Mayor John Tory said the conditions seemed appropriate given the purpose of the gathering.

“It might just give us the tiniest sense of the devastating circumstances in which our service men and women did their duty on our behalf in many past conflicts,” he said.

In Halifax, hundreds of people turned out, and doves flew overhead as rows of uniformed men and women removed their hats to pay their respects to fallen soldiers.

Veterans, dignitaries and citizens also bowed their heads in Montreal as prayers and poems were read in English, French and Mohawk.

Some wiped away tears and during a reading of Robert Laurence Binyon’s poem “For the Fallen,” which was occasionally drowned out by the booming cannon fire of an artillery salute.

The crowd was invited to repeat the famous refrain: “At the going down of the sun and in the morning/we will remember them.”

Later, outgoing Mayor Denis Coderre linked arms with his successor Valerie Plante as the two lay a wreath at the foot of the cenotaph.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Idea of free student bus passes will come to Regional District of Nanaimo board table

Tyler Brown, RDN transit committee chairman, hopes to explore fully subsidized bus passes for youths

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Neighbourhood around supportive housing disrespected

Supreme Court’s ruling a mean-spirited example of establishment versus the people, says letter writer

Nanaimo school district starting from scratch on testing water for lead

Health Canada changed acceptable levels to 0.005 mg/L in March, prompting re-testing at schools

Nanaimo service station first in B.C. to be part of Petro-Canada’s ‘electric highway’

EV charge stations started operating last month at service station at Terminal and Princess Royal

New VIU president sworn in at ceremony at Snuneymuxw Longhouse

Deborah Saucier says VIU is committed to inclusion and reconciliation with indigenous peoples

VIDEO: B.C. couple creates three-storey ‘doggie mansion’ for their five pups

Group of seven, who Kylee Ryan has dubbed as the ‘wandering paws,’ have a neat setup in Jade City

Port Alberni mom takes school district to court over Indigenous smudging, prayer in class

Candice Servatius, who is an evangelical Christian, is suing School District 70

Man, 50, dies following incident in downtown Parksville

Teenage girl hailed as hero for intervening after witnessing situation unfold

Senior dies after suffering medical emergency and crashing vehicle in Nanoose Bay

Bystanders performed CPR while waiting for first responders

Nanaimo artist Willow Friday presents first photo exhibition at Artzi Stuff

‘Wanderlust’ chronicles Friday’s recent trip through the American southwest

Family of B.C. man killed in hit-and-run plead for tips, one year later

Cameron Kerr’s family says the driver and passengers tried to cover their tracks

Princeton couple pays for dream vacation with 840,000 grocery store points

It’s easy if you know what you are doing, they say

Chilliwack family’s dog missing after using online pet-sitting service

Frankie the pit bull bolted and hit by a car shortly after drop off through Rover.com

B.C. wildlife experts urge hunters to switch ammo to stop lead poisoning in birds

OWL, in Delta, is currently treating two eagles for lead poisoning

Most Read