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Poll finds interest in Remembrance Day on the rise

People lay poppies on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier following Remembrance Day ceremonies at the National War Memorial in Ottawa November 11, 2011.

Blair Gable/Reuters

Canadians have never shied away from honouring Remembrance Day, but a new poll suggests there's growing interest in paying tribute to fallen soldiers.

An Ipsos Reid poll found that 30 per cent of respondents to an online survey had formal plans to attend Remembrance Day ceremonies on Sunday.

Polls taken in previous years show that number has been steadily rising. Only 16 per cent of those surveyed in 2008 planned to attend a Remembrance Day event, but the number climbed to 22 per cent in 2010 and has risen a further eight points since then.

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The number of survey respondents who planned to observe two minutes of silence also increased, climbing five points from 2010 levels to 80 per cent in 2012. The poll also showed that 82 per cent of respondents planned to wear a poppy in the run-up to Nov. 11 this year.

Anthony Wilson-Smith, president of the Historica-Dominion Institute, said the numbers suggest a growing appreciation for the role of history in everyday life.

"The events of yesterday have a very direct effect today. Our history affects our present and our future," Mr. Wilson-Smith said in a telephone interview. "What you see a poll like this reflect really is that … no matter what your age in general, you're paying more attention than you were previously."

Mr. Wilson-Smith attributes the upswing in interest in part to the shifting demographics among the country's veterans.

The ranks of Second World War survivors and Korean War veterans are now being swelled by the thousands of soldiers who fought as part of the nine-year mission in Afghanistan.

This younger generation of soldiers, Mr. Wilson-Smith said, have had great success connecting with Canadians as they tour schools and other community events spreading a message of remembrance.

"With younger soldiers it's very much in the here and now," he said. "They see them in uniform, they can visualize them doing it. The impact is immediate."

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Mr. Wilson-Smith also credited the federal Conservative government, which has taken pains to raise awareness of military activities throughout its tenure.

The power of the digital age also can't be overlooked, he added.

Detailed Web archives of war footage and survivor narratives ensure Canadians can hear the traditional Remembrance Day message year-round. While such saturation has the capacity to breed apathy, Mr. Wilson-Smith said it appears to be having the reverse effect.

"If what happens is that every single day, 365 days of the year, Canadians are cognizant of the effort and sacrifice made by our veterans, that's a real measure of success," he said.

The Ipsos Reid poll surveyed 1,039 Canadians online between Oct. 30 and Nov. 2.

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