The Canadian War Memorial Committee was established in 1969 at the request of the Sovereign Grand Lodge for the purpose of conducting a Ceremony of Remembrance similar to the ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier which has been held annually in Arlington, Virginia since 1934.
The Canadian government granted permission for the Odd Fellows and Rebekahs of Canada to hold an annual wreath ceremony on the 1st Sunday in June of each year. This permission was granted with the stipulation that the ceremony must not detract in any way from direct respect for the War Dead, and that the occasion not be used for expounding upon the merits of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.
The first ceremony to be held on Canadian soil was on Sunday, June 7, 1970. Laying the first wreaths were Brother Donald R. Smith, Sovereign Grand Master from California, and Sister Lois K. Stevens, President of the International Association of Rebekah Assemblies from Connecticut.
On May 28th, , 2000, the remains of an unidentified soldier, who had previously been interred in a cemetery in the vicinity of Vimy Ridge, was laid to rest in a specially-designed sarcophagus directly in front of the War Memorial. Since that time, the Canadian War Memorial Committee of the IOOF entered into negotiations with the Government requesting permission to award the Grand Decoration of Chivalry to the Unknown Soldier. After several years of discussions, the Committee learned that an agreement between the Canadian government and all Canadian Veteran Associations stated that “the Unknown Soldier would lie in simple state as a representative of all who have fallen or who have offered their lives in military service, and that he would not be elevated in status beyond that of a common soldier through the presentation of honours and decorations”. However in 2007, the Committee and the government did agree to the presentation of the Grand Decoration of Chivalry to “all Canadians who have made the ultimate sacrifice defending our country and the world and for honourable service in the cause of peace and liberty”, and the ceremony was held on Sunday, June 7, 2007. This jewel and the papers patent were suitably framed and presented to the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa at a special ceremony on Saturday, May 31st, 2008.
On the Saturday, preceding the Wreath Laying Ceremony, a banquet is held to honour our International Leaders.