It was a chilly -11 C in the nation’s capital last November as thousands gathered at the National War Memorial to remember the sacrifice of Canada’s veterans. Defence minister Harjit Sajjan and veterans affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan, the government’s main representatives at the ceremony, stood at the front of the crowd along with rows of aging veterans, some in wheelchairs. The new governor general, Julie Payette, accompanied Diana Abel, that year’s Silver Cross Mother, representing all those in Canada who’d lost children in the line of duty. With Prime Minster Justin Trudeau at a summit in Asia, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau represented him among the many dignitaries who laid wreaths just steps from Parliament Hill.
Twenty kilometres away, in the east-end Ottawa suburb of Orléans, Vice-Admiral Mark Norman stood quietly somewhere among a much smaller crowd.
An hour earlier, he had dressed in his naval uniform, put on his many medals and made his way to the Orléans Cenotaph near his home. He was relatively anonymous among the Remembrance Day crowd gathered outside the local Legion branch, watching an RCMP pipe band lead a parade of veterans and other marchers to the cenotaph, observing the minute of silence and listening as a bugler played The Last Post. When the ceremony was over Norman left quietly, melting away with the rest of the onlookers.
For the past several years Norman had been part of the official federal government ceremony commemorating the fallen. But not on this day, and perhaps not ever again.