Veterans who have considered suicide noted in national Remembrance Day service

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

The Arrowsmith Search and Rescue Society has outgrown its home at the Coombs-Hilliers Fire Department and will soon move to its new operations hall at the Qualicum Beach Airport. (PQB News file photo)
The Qualicum Beach Farmers Market is one of the organizations approved for a grant-in-aid by the Town of Qualicum Beach. (PQB News file photo)
COVID-19: Town of Qualicum Beach awards $80K in relief funds to community groups

Pandemic has put a financial strain on many organizations

The remains of the Mid-Island Co-op in Whiskey Creek along the Alberni Highway on Friday, June 18, after a blaze the day before devastated the gas station. (Michael Briones photo)
VIDEO: Whiskey Creek gas station destroyed by fire after camper van explosion

Nine fire departments responded to the incident, no injuries reported

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

Things are looking up for Vancouver Island as zero COVID-19 cases have been reported for the first time since October. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Island records zero new COVID-19 cases for the first time since October

For the first time since October, the province is reporting zero new… Continue reading

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

A 58-year-old B.C. woman says she was attacked by a deer while out walking her dog last week. (Paul Chiasson/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Deer attack in southeastern B.C. leaves woman cut, battered and bruised

Liz Royer says she was out for a run last week when the deer appeared out of a bush and charged

Most Read