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Atlantic Canada's connection to military service strong says historian

John Boileau said there was concern Remembrance Day might die out due to dwindling crowds at ceremonies, but attendance has rebounded
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Haligonians will be heading to Remembrance Day ceremonies throughout the municipality Saturday.  

Military historian John Boileau said the public connection to military service is strong here on the east coast.

"Atlantic Canada is about nine per cent of the population of Canada, but traditionally provides about 21 per cent of Canada's armed forces, that's an amazing statistic."

He said crowds at cenotaphs seem to grow every year.

"I know in the late 90s and early 2000s, there was a lot of concern that Remembrance Day might die out because of lack of attendance," he said. "I don't know if it's because our involvement in Afghanistan, but certainly after 2000, the number of folks at Remembrance Day ceremonies increased exponentially across the country, and it was refreshing to see the large number of young people coming out to those."

He attributes that to teachers initiating Remembrance Day projects and schools inviting veterans who have served in the military to tell their stories to students.

He said although we pause on the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month to pay tribute to our veterans, the agreement to stop the fighting between the Allies and Germany in the First World War was signed a few hours earlier in the day.

"The Armistice was actually signed about 5 o'clock that morning," he explained. "The Germans wanted it to take effect immediately, but the Allies said it would take some time to get it out to their men, so that's why 11 o'clock was chosen."

He added, for many years in Canada, Remembrance Day was marked on the same day as another holiday.

According to the Canadian War Museum, the Armistice Day bill passed by Parliament in 1921 saw ceremonies take place on the first Monday in the week of November 11th, which was also Thanksgiving, and it stayed that way for a decade.

Near the end of the 1920s, a movement to separate the two observances grew stronger.

In 1931, the federal government moved the newly named Remembrance Day would be observed on November 11th and Thanksgiving would take place on a different date.

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