Source AP ©

Ontario to give stretch of highway new name in honor of killed soldiers

A stretch of Canada's busiest highway will have a new name to honor the soldiers who have died in Afghanistan.

Donna Cansfield said she will meet with Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty on Friday to discuss how soon Highway 401 can adopt the name Highway of Heroes.

"When you consider the sacrifice that the soldiers and others have made, it's just a wonderful opportunity for us to reflect on that sacrifice and to be able to acknowledge it," Cansfield said.

The renaming would affect a 105-mile (168.9-kilometer) stretch of the highway from Canadian Forces Base Trenton - where the bodies of soldiers arrive - to Toronto, where the remains are examined at a forensics center.

Overpasses along the route have been the scenes of large, impromptu gatherings of people waving flags, holding placards and saluting the passing convoy.

Cansfield said the call to rename the highway came to her attention when she received word Wednesday of an online petition that has gathered more than 12,000 signatures.

Sixty-nine Canadian soldiers and one diplomat have lost their lives in Afghanistan since 2002. Canada has about 2,300 soldiers in the country, mainly operating in Kandahar province, the former Taliban stronghold.

In the latest incident, a powerful explosion ripped into a Canadian armored vehicle in Afghanistan on Wednesday, killing two soldiers, officials said.

The Afghan mission is increasingly unpopular in Canada. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said Canada's combat mission in Afghanistan will not be extended beyond 2009 without a consensus in Parliament.