Armistice Day was inaugurated across the British Commonwealth by King George V in 1919, and formed the basis for today’s Remembrance Day observances. The date was selected to commemorate the ceasefire declared by representatives of Germany and the Entente, “at the 11th hour, on the 11th day, at the 11th month,” in 1918. While today the June 28, 1919 signing of the Treaty of Versailles is more often recognized as the end of the Great War, it is important to bear in mind that for the average Canadian, the end of hostilities may have had greater personal value than any formal victory.
For Canadians, the day was first ratified in 1921, when the Canadian Parliament passed its Armistice Day bill, which solidified the date as a national holiday. For the majority of the 1920s, observances were performed by churches and other non-state organizations, and frequently incorporated into Thanksgiving services. In 1931, a group of veterans and other concerned Canadians successfully petitioned
Parliament to clearly separate the day from Thanksgiving, and to place greater emphasis on commemorating the sacrifice of those who served, as opposed to celebrating the Allied victory. That year, Armistice Day was revitalized under the new name, “Remembrance Day,” in keeping with similar name changes in other Commonwealth nations.
Though originally instituted to commemorate the First World War, Remembrance Day has since been expanded to recognize the service of those who participated in the Second World War, Korean War, and current veterans and servicepersons.
- written by Adam Sarjeant