Laval officials commemorate Greek Independence Day

A celebration of Hellenic freedom, and a brief respite from the pandemic

Elected officials from the federal, provincial and municipal levels of government gathered at the war cenotaph near Laval city hall on Saturday March 26 to pay respects alongside residents of Hellenic ancestry to the early 19th century Greeks who valiantly fought so that the modern-day Greek Republic would be independent.

Honoring the patriots

On March 25, 1821 in what was then Ottoman-dominated Greece, Bishop Germanos of the metropolis of Patras blessed a Greek flag and proclaimed an uprising by the Greeks against the occupying Ottomans. The event marked the beginning of the Greek Revolution, which continued until 1832 when the Republic of Greece was proclaimed and was recognized by the world’s major nations.

To honour those who gave their lives so that Greece would be free, Greeks from Laval and from all over the Montreal region go each year to the cenotaph outside Laval city hall to deposit commemorative wreaths and to spend a moment in silent contemplation. In the Montreal region, Laval has the highest concentration of residents of Greek heritage.

Dignitaries pay respects

Among those depositing commemorative wreaths this year were a representative from the Consulate General for Greece in Montreal, Liberal MPs Fayçal El-Khoury, Annie Koutrakis and Emmanuela Lambropoulos, Laval-area MNAs Guy Ouellette, Christopher Skeete and Saul Polo, Laval city councillors Aglaia Revelakis, Vasilios Karidogiannis and Ray Khalil, and Montreal city councillor for Park Extension Mary Deros.

As well, wreaths were left by Hellenic Community of Quebec president John Theodosopoulos, Hellenic Community of Greater Montreal president Andy Crilis and Greek Canadian armed forces veterans.

From the left, Saint-Laurent MP Emmanuella Lambropoulos, Vimy MP Annie Koutrakis and Laval-Les Îles MP Fayçal El-Khoury prepare to deposit a commemorative wreath at the base of the City of Laval’s war cenotaph during a Greek Independence Day memorial in Laval on March 26. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

This year’s Greek Independence Day commemorations, including the Greek Independence Day parade in Park Extension, were spread out as usual over three days in Laval and in Montreal. They were of special significance this year since they were cancelled over the past two years because of sanitary restrictions made necessary by the Covid-19 pandemic.

‘Back to normal’

“It’s very good to be back,” said Dennis Marinos, president of the HCGM’s Laval regional chapter. “Thank God the pandemic is over, at least temporarily, and we’re able to attend events like these to celebrate our Independence Day, and to be able to have our parade as we usually do under normal circumstances. Back to normal.”

“There couldn’t be a better day to celebrate the freedom of Greece, while getting things back to normal,” said John Theodosopoulos. “Today, we can see that we are freer than every from this Covid prison than we have been for the past two years.”

From the left, Sainte-Rose MNA Christopher Skeete, Chomedey MNA Guy Ouellette and Laval-des-Rapides MNA Saul Polo were among the dignitaries who paid their respects during the March 26 Greek Independence Day ceremony near Laval city hall. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

Celebrating freedom

For Vimy MP Annie Koutrakis, it was the first time since first being elected in 2019 that she was able to celebrate in person with members of the community. “This really feels like a celebration of freedom,” said Koutrakis. “I think everybody is feeling very proud and happy to be able to this in person again.”

Chomedey MNA Guy Ouellette said Greek Independence Day has always been personally meaningful for him, because some of the celebrations were on the same date he was first elected 15 years ago. “My constituency is home to the largest Greek community in the province, so this has always been really important,” said Ouellette.