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Mayor Ford speaks at Old City Hall Remembrance Day ceremony

Mayor Rob Ford gave the key address at a Remembrance Day ceremony at Old City Hall on Monday.

“We honour and remember the service and sacrifice of more than 1.5 million Canadians,” Ford said. “It is hoped by remembering we will do all we can to strive for peace.”

The mayor spoke and laid a wreath at the cenotaph after two minutes of silence and a fly-by of vintage planes by the Canadian Harvard Aircraft Association and the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum. To read his full speech, scroll to the bottom. Click here for the full program.

Last week, Toronto was divided on whether it was appropriate for Ford to attend civic events like the Remembrance Day ceremony and the Santa Claus parade. Ford admitted he had smoked crack cocaine and his friend, Alexander Lisi, was arrested after he was placed under police surveillance because of the alleged crack video.

Deputy mayor Norm Kelly said his father, who served during the Second World War, told him, “You salute the office, not the person.”

“It’s important for the mayor to be there and I hoped people would understand the difference between the man and the office,” he told 680News on Monday.

During last year’s Remembrance Day ceremony, where Ford thanked veterans for their service and highlighted the importance of young people carrying the torch of remembrance, he was heckled from the crowd.

GTA ceremonies

Around the GTA, Royal Canadian Army Cadets stood on guard at the Streetsville Cenotaph for 24 hours, beginning at 8:30 p.m. on Sunday and held vigil on rotating shifts until 10:30 a.m. on Monday.

At Sunnybrook’s Veterans Centre, veterans woke up to a sea of Canadian flags. Crews spent four hours planting 19,000 flags in the ground. Each was purchased by members of the community with proceeds going to the hospital’s Veterans Comfort Fund.

Click here to purchase a flag.

Ceremonies in Toronto began with a sunrise ceremony at Prospect Cemetery on St. Clair Avenue West and continued at Old City Hall and across the country.

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Bag pipers played at major intersections along Yonge Street after the city observed two minutes of silence.

“This is our tribute to the men and women who have served our country, fought for our freedom and made the ultimate sacrifice,” Downtown Yonge Business Improvement Area executive director Mark Garner said in a statement.

“This is the first time we have planned an event for Remembrance Day, and we wanted to mark it in way that complements the ceremony held at Old City Hall,” he said.

Ceremonies across Canada

Canadians across the country gathered to honour veterans and those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was scheduled to take part in the national ceremony at 11 a.m. in Ottawa, but will take a journey back in time to Crysler’s Farm, in nearby Morrisburg, Ont., later in the day.

The region was the scene of a pivotal battle in the War of 1812, where an American campaign through the St. Lawrence River valley was stopped cold by British, Canadian and aboriginal forces.

Fought on Nov. 11, 1813, the engagement is sometimes referred to as the battle that saved Canada, and involved as many as 12,000 troops.

The annual Remembrance Day ceremony at the National War Memorial is always well attended, but had extra significance this year because Canadian soldiers have begun arriving home from Afghanistan.

A mission in Kabul to train Afghan soldiers, following five years of combat in Kandahar, is drawing to a close in March, and all boots are expected to be out of the war-ravaged country by summer.

In its recent throne speech, the Harper government promised to rededicate the national memorial, within sight of Parliament Hill, to the memory of all men and women who fought for the country in every conflict.

There has been a simmering debate about whether to carve the dates of the Afghan war into the massive granite structure, a notion resisted in some quarters of the federal government, including Veterans Affairs Canada.

During the First World War, roughly 68,000 Canadians were killed in four years of fighting.

The Second World War claimed a further 47,000 Canadian lives between 1939 and 1945.

The United Nations-led Korean war in the 1950s saw 516 give up their lives. An additional 1,800 Canadians have died either on UN peacekeeping missions, in Cold War training exercises — or in Afghanistan. There were 158 soldiers killed in that conflict.

Text of Mayor Ford’s speech at the Remembrance Day ceremony:

Canada’s Remembrance Day was held on this day in 1919 to mark the first anniversary of the end of the First World War. And so as we have done for the last 94 years the people of Toronto join all Canadians to remember and honour those who have fought for our freedom.

We honour and remember the service and sacrifice of more than 1.5 million Canadians.

It is hoped by remembering we will do all we can to strive for peace.

This year, Canada marks several significant anniversaries. This is the year that we officially recognize the six long years of the Battle of the Atlantic. We also mark the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War.

Canada joined the Korean War in support of the United Nations’ ideals of peace and freedom. In the pursuit of global peace, over 26,000 Canadians served in the Korean War. The names of the 516 Canadians who died are recorded in the Korea Book of Remembrance.

Since then, over 125,000 Canadians have served in pursuit of global peace. Those who didn’t return are owed a debt that can never ever be repaid.

Today, we’ll remember those who have served Canada so valiantly in times of need. Thank you.