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Suspicious package delayed Ottawa Remembrance Day ceremony: RCMP

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The national Remembrance Day ceremony in Ottawa on Thursday was delayed because a suspicious package was identified on the premises, the RCMP says.

A spokesperson from the organization told CTV News that the package was found a few minutes prior to the ceremony.

“As a precautionary measure, our officers investigated it and the package was cleared a few minutes after,” a statement from the RCMP reads.

Members of the Explosive Disposal Unit, which is a combined team of RCMP and Ottawa Police Service officers, and a police service dog, attended the scene.

The security issue pushed back the arrival of the motorcades of the prime minister, the Silver Cross Mother, and the Governor General by 10 minutes.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Sophie Gregoire Trudeau were set to arrive at 10:45 a.m. EST, according to the event's schedule, but arrived closer to 10:55 a.m. EST.

Their delay was notable, as Remembrance Day ceremonies usually stick to a strict schedule.

Also present were Defence Minister Anita Anand and Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay.

Anand, who was already there before the dignitaries arrived, says she was unware of any security threat.

“I was seated in front of the war memorial and I heard, after the event, that there was a security threat and a minor delay…during the ceremony nothing came to my attention at all,” she said during an interview on CTV News Channel’s Power Play airing Thursday.

“Of course it concerns me but I know that we have excellent security services on the ground.”

The proceedings returned to some semblance of normality this year after being adjusted to reflect COVID-19 public health guidelines in 2020. Veterans and spectators have been invited to line the streets.

LEADERS REFLECT ON VETERANS’ SACRIFICES

Earlier in the day, Gov. Gen. Mary Simon issued a statement reflecting on the day.

“It is important to learn about the stories of soldiers, past and present. Though some stories may be hard to hear, it is our responsibility to bear witness. Our hope is that by recalling past sacrifices, we can look to a peaceful future. It is up to all of us. It is in our hands. It is our duty to keep the memory alive,” she wrote in a statement published Thursday.

Trudeau also sent out a message.

“We pause to remember their brave sacrifices, and acknowledge a debt we can never repay. We pay tribute to those who have lost their lives, and those who have been physically or mentally scarred by their service, as well as their family members and loved ones,” reads a statement from Trudeau.

More than 2.3 million Canadians have served in uniform since Confederation.

“Thanks to their selflessness, dedication, and bravery, members of our military and police have been defending freedom, peace, and democracy – the values that we cherish deeply within our hearts,” Trudeau said.

Meanwhile, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, a veteran himself, said “Our veterans and those serving today represent the very best of what it means to be Canadian. Their selflessness and courage serve as an inspiration to all of us.

“To show your gratitude, wear a poppy, attend your local cenotaph ceremony, and take a moment of silence to reflect and remember that our country’s freedoms came at a great cost.”

Thursday marks the 100th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Legion’s poppy campaign in Canada.

In his own statement, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh both recognized the day and criticized the federal government for what he called inaction to meet veterans' needs.

“We need to make sure Canada’s veterans and their families are well supported. For too long, the government has not met the needs of veterans and it shows in the rise of homelessness and mental health challenges among those who have served their country. Veterans deserve more than empty promises,” he said.

In an interview with CTV News, MacAulay said the government is prepared to release its new mental health initiative for veterans in March, 2022.

“Anything to help veterans we’re going to do,” he said.

A major backlog remains within Veterans Affairs Canada to process disability claims for veterans who sustained long-term injuries during military service.

MacAulay attributed the backlog to an increase in applications of over 90 per cent but noted Ottawa has cut it down by close to 30 per cent in the last year.

“Not good enough at all, but we will be putting more people in place to make sure we get the backlog under control,” he said.

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