Remembrance Day Poppy

Remembrance Day

November 11

Canadian War Museum
1 Vimy Place
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0M8
Tel. (819) 776-8600
toll-free 1-800-555-5621

Armistice Day becomes Remembrance Day

Armistice Day and Thanksgiving remained linked for the next decade. Held every year on the Monday before November 11, Thanksgiving was celebrated with special dinners at home and sports and other activities outside. These normally passed quietly and went unnoticed by the press. In contrast, even though it was not an official holiday, November 11 saw large and serious minded gatherings at local cenotaphs and also on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, which usually received intensive press coverage. This unpopular anomaly could not last. At its founding convention in Winnipeg in November 1925, the Canadian Legion passed a resolution affirming that Armistice Day should be held only on November 11 and led a campaign to have this enacted by Parliament.

On March 18, 1931, A.W. Neil, MP for Comox-Alberni in British Columbia, introduced a motion in the House of Commons to have Armistice Day observed on November 11 and "on no other date." Concerns about the holiday's impact on business, he claimed, were "irrelevant." At the same time, another MP, C.W. Dickie of Nanaimo, also speaking on behalf of veterans, moved an amendment changing the name from "Armistice" to "Remembrance" Day. This term, he felt, better "implies that we wish to remember and perpetuate." As historian Denise Thompson, has suggested, "the term 'Remembrance Day' placed the emphasis squarely upon memory - and by extension upon the soldiers whose deaths were being remembered - rather than upon the Armistice, a political achievement in which rank-and-file soldiers were not directly involved." Parliament quickly adopted these resolutions, and Canada held its first 'Remembrance Day' on November 11, 1931.

Since 1931

Ceremony at the tomb of the unknown soldier, Photo: Tom MacGregor, Legion Magazine Archives

Remembrance Day has remained the official title for the annual commemoration ever since, although the term "Armistice Day," is sometimes used interchangeably, but unofficially. "Remembrance Day," a more flexible and inclusive term, readily accommodates the remembrance of war dead from the Second World War, the Korean War, other conflicts, and peacekeeping.

Every year ceremonies are held at cenotaphs in cities and towns across the country, involving prayer, recitations, and playing the traditional military bugle calls of "Last Post" followed by "Reveille." The largest, carried live by the national television networks, is held at the National War Memorial in Ottawa and attended by the prime minister, the governor general, and the "Silver Cross Mother," a mother who has actually lost a child or children in action. Remembrance Day ceremonies offer veterans the opportunity to remember and salute fallen comrades, and all Canadians an occasion to reflect on the sacrifices made and the tragedies endured in their name.

Canadian War Cemetery - Remembrance Day, November 11, Photo: Serge Durflinger