Remembrance Day ceremonies in Tofino and Ucluelet

"They lost their lives protecting everyone.”

On Nov. 11, the West Coast will gather to honour the heroes who fought for their freedom.

“We have a pretty good life in Tofino and it’s because of those veterans before us that we have that freedom and good life,” said Tofino councillor and Legion board member Duncan McMaster. “This year is especially poignant because it’s the 100th anniversary of the First World War…We all learn things by our mistakes. If we forget, those mistakes are likely to be repeated and we can get led along by politicians into making those same mistakes.”

Tofino’s Remembrance Day Service will begin with a parade at 10 a.m. from the Tofino Fire Hall to St. Columba Church for a service before gathering outside the Tofino Legion around 10:45 a.m. for the flag raising and wreath laying ceremony. A luncheon will follow at the Legion hosted by the Ladies’ Auxiliary.

Rene Gibson of the Ladies’ Auxiliary said Remembrance Day is a solemn time for the community and country to reflect.

“It’s important for everyone here in Tofino,” she said. “Everybody appreciates what their fallen comrades have done. They lost their lives protecting everyone.”

Ucluelet’s Remembrance Day Ceremony will begin with a parade starting at the Ucluelet Fire Hall at 10:45 a.m. And the community will marshall at the cenotaph outside the Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans Hall at 11 a.m. A reception follows in the hall with food donated by local businesses.

“This is why we are here and this is the most important date of the entire year. Everything else that we do is just to support this moment,” said Bronwyn Kelleher of the ANAF. “We are here to support veterans; veterans who served in the past and are no longer with us, those that are here now and future generations of veterans to come…As Canadian citizens it is our obligation to honour those that have given us the privilege to live here, whether that’s in Ucluelet or anywhere else across the country, on Nov. 11 we all stop to take a moment to remember.”

She suggested “Ucluelet is a good example of Canada,” in regards to stepping up and supporting each other.

“Ucluelet comes together when it needs to. When emergencies happen or citizens need help, we come together and this is one of those moments to remember when we did have to come together as citizens, not just of Ucluelet but of our country,” she said.

Kelleher added that, while some West Coasters were reluctant to see Ucluelet and Tofino end their tradition of honouring Remembrance Day together and establish separate events in each town in 2015, the turnouts in Ucluelet and Tofino since then have proven the move was the right one.

“Both ceremonies have gone off great,” she said. “The towns are growing and both halls have been packed at the receptions and there’s been excellent turnouts at both ceremonies, so it was definitely the right move,” she said.

McMaster has been involved with the Legion for the past 12 years and said last year’s ceremony was one of the largest he’s ever seen.

“The Legion Hall was packed to capacity,” he said. “It would be disappointing if it was just a bunch of old fogeys gathered around the flagpole. So, it is good to see everybody come out and it is definitely a community thing…We don’t actually have a lot of veterans in Tofino. The next focus of the Legion in a town is the community. So, we’re community focused.

Courtenay Alberni MP and the NDP’s Veteran Affairs Critic Gord Johns said it’s important for the West Coast to thank and honour Canada’s veterans and their families

“We live in a thriving, free and inclusive society thanks to their service and sacrifice,” he said.

“I hope that people will stand together, honour, recognize and support our veterans and give them the respect that they deserve.”