When a Canadian soldier is killed in action, the remains are repatriated to Canadian Forces Base Trenton, near Trenton, Ontario, operated by the Royal Canadian Air Forces. From there, they are driven to the coroner’s building in Toronto for examination before being released to the families.
Part of the 401 Highway connecting CFB Trenton and the Don Valley Parkway in Toronto is now called the “Highway of Heroes” in honor of the Canadian Forces who gave their lives to Canada’s military missions. This is also the stretch of road the remains of the fallen take in funeral convoys on the way to Toronto.
The funeral processions are marked by a ceremony at CFB Trenton before the 100 mile drive to the morgue. When this process first started, something extraordinary happened: Canadians spontaneously started to line the route, waving flags and rendering salutes in a grassroots phenomenon to remember their country’s sons and daughters.
Pete Fisher is a photographer who first saw the procession in 2002, when his father tipped him off that four soldiers would be driven that day. He petitioned the government for a formal name change for the stretch of highway. He now has a 185-page book featuring every Canadian soldier whose remains traversed the road.
“Each picture means so much,” Fisher told Canada’s CTV News. “All these families were so amazing… In their worst moment of sadness, there they are in these limousines screaming ‘thank you’ to the people on these bridges. But it was reciprocal. The people on these bridges were thanking them.”
Most recently, Sgt. Andrew Doiron of Moncton, New Brunswick, was repatriated on the Highway. Doiron was a Canadian Forces special forces advisor in Iraq, killed by Kurdish Peshmerga in a friendly fire incident. His death is the first Canadian fatality of the new phase of the Iraq War.
Thousands of people — firefighters, policemen, civilians — line the bridges and overpasses on the stretch of highway waiting for hours to pay tribute to the soldiers and remind the families their grief and sacrifice is not forgotten.
Every. Single. One.