Federal leaders commemorate lost military members ahead of Remembrance Day

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OTTAWA — Federal political leaders say Canadians can still honour the sacrifices of the country’s veterans even without traditional Remembrance Day events.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, along with other federal party leaders, rose in the House of Commons Thursday to pay their own tributes ahead of the Nov. 11 commemorations.

Public events are being drastically scaled back due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Trudeau said Canadians do not need to wonder how the country can rise to the moment of honouring soldiers’ service, because it is already happening.

“We see it in young people getting groceries for older veterans to keep them safe, we see it in front-line workers who, after hours of standing on tired feet, never give up as they care for our parents and grandparents, the last members of the ‘Greatest Generation,'” he said.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, who served in the Royal Canadian Air Force, said while the traditional gatherings at cenotaphs and parades are meaningful, they are not the only way to remember.

He called on Canadians to share their reflections on social media, wear poppies even if nobody sees them and take time to learn about Canada’s military heritage.

O’Toole also acknowledged the many still-serving or retired soldiers who suffer from the invisible psychological wounds of war, and the struggles they may face during Remembrance Day this year, when a lack of community events leaves them alone.

“I want veterans to know that they are not alone,” he said.

“They have a grateful nation with them. They have friends and comrades that want them to reach out. They have supports. They are loved and we are all here for them. They are going to get through this week, just as our country is going to get through this pandemic.”

Modern forms of aggression mean the fight to stand up for Western values is also waged by civilians who are losing their lives just for speaking up, said Bloc Québécois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet.

“I would like to say to all these people, from all these times … ‘I remember’,” he said in French.

Parliament also has a role to play, said NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.

Decisions on whether, how or when to send soldiers off to war must be taken seriously, as must how the government treats those who return.

“Too often Canada is not doing right by veterans. They experience long wait times, denials and other barriers to the services and supports they need,” he said.

“This is not, or should not be, a partisan issue. We can always improve, and we will continue to make sure we do.”

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