TORONTO - A ceremonial route that winds its way through the streets of Toronto was unveiled Monday as a permanent tribute to Canadian soldiers slain abroad.

The new Route of Heroes picks up from the Highway of Heroes, the major highway that runs to Toronto from CFB Trenton in eastern Ontario where the bodies of soldiers are repatriated.

On hand Monday for the unveiling of the first dedicated street sign, Cpl. Christopher Miller of Hamilton welcomed the official designation as "very fitting."

"Having had two close friends come across the route, it means a whole lot to me," said Miller, who served in Afghanistan in 2006. "It helps me."

The Route of Heroes begins where Highway 401 feeds into the Don Valley Parkway. The route runs south to Bloor Street, west to Bay Street, then to the coroner's office on Grenville Street.

Special street signs — with the black-lettered "Route of Heroes" inscribed on a white background against a small red Maple Leaf — are to be erected in honour of the fallen soldiers.

Mayor David Miller unveiled the first sign at a ceremony Monday at a small park on Bloor Street, the culmination of an effort from local branches of the Royal Canadian Legion.

Miller called it a fitting tribute to the men and women of Canada's armed forces, noting the ceremony came amid word of the latest soldier to be killed in Afghanistan.

"The final journey taken by our Canadian soldiers in Toronto will now be known as the Route of Heroes," Miller said.

"(It's) particularly poignant to be doing it today with the news of the passing of Sgt. Martin Goudreault."

Goudreault, 35, of Sudbury, Ont., who was on his third tour of Afghanistan, became the 147th Canadian soldier to die on the mission since 2002.

He was killed by an improvised explosive device on Sunday.

Toronto is the first Canadian city to honour the memories of soldiers with street signage.

Brig.-Gen. Jean Collin, commander of joint task force and land forces in Ontario, said the dedicated route is a reminder to both soldiers and grieving families of the support they have from all Canadians.

That support, he said, "truly does warm the soul and recharge the batteries" of soldiers.

"In our darkest days and our most difficult challenges and in very inhospitable and harsh circumstances such as Afghanistan, it helps to keep us going and it also helps our families," Collin said.

At the same time, families of slain soldiers found the Highway of Heroes and the Route of Heroes became "the first part of their healing process" as they mourned the loss of their loved ones, Collin said.

The signs will be placed at the intersections of major arterial roads.