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Remembrance Day ceremony honours civilian victims of war
Published Monday, November 11, 2019 5:19PM PST Last Updated Monday, November 11, 2019 7:26PM PST
VANCOUVER - Vancouverites gathered in Seaforth Peace Park Monday afternoon for a Remembrance Day ceremony designed to honour civilian victims of war that might not be included in other traditional ceremonies.
The event, Let Peace Be Their Memorial, honoured refugees and other civilian victims who may have died, been injured or lost loved ones to conflict. It was organized by the BC Humanist Association, the Multifaith Action Society and Vancouver Peace Poppies.
"It's a special wreath-laying ceremony to commemorate civilian victims of war and other overlooked victims of war," said Teresa Gagne, co-founder of Vancouver Peace Poppies. "We feel it's important that Remembrance Day be kept as an important, relevant day where we stop and think about the costs and consequences of war."
Gagne's organization also distributes white poppies, which emerged as a symbol of peace in 1933.
"It was an outgrowth primarily of women who had seen the terrible consequences of (the First World War) and could see that the lesson didn't seem to have been learned, that the country was becoming more militaristic again, and the message to them of 'never again' was being lost," said Gagne. "They came up with the idea of the white poppy as a token of peace, as a symbol of peace and a renunciation of war."
Wreaths comprising white and red poppies made by local students were designed to showcase the rise of civilian casualties in war. Other handmade wreaths commemorated the sacrifices of refugees, child soldiers, women, and those in the military who suffer from PTSD.
This year's guest speaker, Fazineh Keita, was a former child soldier from Sierra Leone and the co-founder of the Innocence Lost Foundation.
The speaker at 2018's event was Tima Kurdi, whose nephew died while fleeing war-torn Syria. A photo of the three-year-old boy's body washed up on a Turkish beach made headlines around the world in 2015.
Gagne said the event was not meant to take away from traditional Remembrance Day ceremonies that honour veterans, and added that her father served in the Second World War.
"Our message is that Remembrance Day is important. There is enough compassion in the world to go around," said Gagne. "Canada's changed. The world has changed. And Remembrance Day needs to change and adapt and open up to cover more and be a real reflection of the Canada of today and the importance of remembrance."