Commemorate Remembrance Day with Beechwood Cemetery

By David DeRocco

Veterans Week Activities Perfect Time to Explore History at Beechwood

In the lead up to Veterans Week starting Nov. 5 that culminates with annual Remembrance Day celebrations, Canadians coast to coast are reminded of the great service and sacrifice offered by the women and men in our defence and security community. At Ottawa’s Beechwood Cemetery, the official National Cemetery of Canada, such important acknowledgements are truly a year-round activity.

“Remembrance is something people tend to forget happens all year round at Beechwood,” said Nick McCarthy, Director of Marketing, Communications and Community Outreach with the Beechwood Cemetery Foundation. “We host a lot of events in October and November, but we really start in April with ANZAC Day. All year we do these special events and ceremonies that all lead up to Remembrance Day, when thousands of Ottawa residents and people from the national capital region descend upon Beechwood to share in the ceremonies.”

As the National Cemetery of Canada, Beechwood is dedicated to delivering high-quality service to honour our forefathers and set a precedent for future generations. Established in 1873, Beechwood is recognized as one of the most beautiful and historic cemeteries in Canada. This breathtaking park-like setting boasts 160 acres of colourful gardens, century-old trees, ponds, and exquisitely groomed trails. More important is the fact that Beechwood is home to a number of sections honouring the defence and security community from Canadian Armed Forces, RCMP, CSIS, Ottawa Police, and veterans of various military activities dating back to the War of 1812. The National Military Cemetery, The RCMP National Memorial Cemetery, The CSIS National Memorial Cemetery, and the cemetery for Veterans and War Dead are all housed within the grounds at Beechwood, providing a comprehensive record of Canadian history as rich as any library.

“Cemeteries have always been referenced as libraries,” said McCarthy. “(Former Governor General) Michaella Jean, when she was here for the dedication of our building, said cemeteries are like human libraries where you get to look at headstones to discover the stories. At Beechwood, the story of our military is over 200 years old. It’s about the evolution of the Canadian Armed Forces and the defence and security community. You can walk around Beechwood and discover thousands and thousands of graves that often go unrecognized. Part of our goal is to celebrate the individuals and their stories. It’s a commitment to all the people who have served Canada.”

Beechwood Cemetery has been celebrating its 150th anniversary with a robust calendar of special events. These have included ceremonies honouring the liberation of Holland and the people who fought in that conflict, a celebration of American Memorial Day, a celebration of Ukrainian Remembrance Day, and a special salute to the 83rd anniversary of the Battle of Britain attended by over 100 veterans.

“Events like that allow us to show the people who fought and served that we still care about them and the sacrifices not only they have made, but also the sacrifices made by families of veterans,” said McCarthy.

With Remembrance Day rapidly approaching, McCarthy said it’s important for Canadians to reflect on the roles the defence and security communities have played in Canada’s history and how they have impacted our day to day lives. Walking through the hallowed grounds of the cemetery is particularly beautiful this time of year, as the colours in the trees rival those of Gatineau Hills. Regardless of whether you’re connected to a veteran or a member of our security organizations, McCarthy said visiting Beechwood Cemetery can be a transformative experience.

“I think a visit to Beechwood illuminates people. It’s all these different people who represent the best of who we are and who have tried to give back through their service. There is definitely a distinction with our Remembrance Day ceremony, because you’re amongst the headstones. You’re with families who sacrificed, standing and showing support side to side. We have thousands of people who are standing in front of the grave of a loved one. Some people even choose to stand in front of their grave because they have pre-bought. To have these people at Beechwood on Remembrance Day is truly special.”

To learn more or to book your guided tour, visit Beechwood Cemetery online at  

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