War, conflict, sacrifice
Wehave gone through two weekends of Remembrance Day celebrations, less and less of the ‘real’ war Veterans attending. By ‘real’ wars we mean the one that was to end all wars and for which, on November 11th at the eleventh hour, we pause for two minutes. And then the second one, which ushered in the modern era.
So in a way, those who can stand and parade are from what is no longer called war, but conflict.
Yet, one doesn’t see too many Blue Berets of the Peacekeepers at Remembrance Day. We should; they are Canada’s contribution to World Peace, with a great convergence of Canadians at the right place and the right time, with a local angle to boot. It was during the reign of Compton born Louis Saint-laurent that his Secretary of State for External Affairs, Lester Pearson, changed forever the rules of war. From then on, the World’s political body, the United Nations, could intervene between belligerents. And so the Peacekeepers were created. It helped that another Canadian, General Tommy Burns, was already at the United Nations. For this, Lester Pearson won Canada’s only Nobel Peace Prize. Canadians were not so generous for Mr. Saint-laurent’s government; it was defeated, marking the end of twenty-two years of Liberal rule.
Because they are no longer wars, these conflicts have become impersonal; a conflict doesn’t involve a country, but its military, no longer under a Department of War, but of defense: Soldiers or Civil Servants?
So it did bring into perspective what these ‘civil servants’ are doing today to see a living ghost make his appearance at two celebrations during the week end. Georgeville’s Lorne Waide, dressed up as a WWI soldier, reminded all that the last veteran of the 19141918 war is now dead, that of the seven million military casualties, almost 65,000 were Canadians, and that we should add the 2,000 people who died in the Halifax explosion to that number to remind ourselves that war doesn’t only kill soldiers. The young man is about the average age of those who never came back from that war, from the second one, from Korea, and from peacekeeping activities.
That the peacekeeping efforts have brought us an almost unprecedented era of global peace, conflicts being local and not global, that for any credible intervention the blessing of the United Nations is now obligatory, even for the Americans, should never hinder the fact that millions of young men, and now thousands of young women, have sacrificed their lives so that we can enjoy what we cherish most.
The second sight that was comforting was the laying of white crosses by children in front of the usual wreaths. Most did so with a solemnity that was surprising, stopping after doing so, not at attention as adults do, but sitting on the ground, looking at these crosses, the monuments. What can they think? A lot looked at Mr. Waide; he is a more normal figure than the old gentlemen, grandfather figures, to them. The age of an older brother, a neighbour, a favorite cousin who always brings treats or who can play a video game with you.
We can change the wording, a war can become a conflict, but the sacrifice of those who are fighting is the same, whatever the name. For having brought a living image of those who fought almost a hundred years ago, for involving the youth in the Remembrance Day ceremonies in Hatley and Ayer’s Cliff, the Ayer’s Cliff Branch #128 of the Royal Canadian Legion must be commended. In the fall edition of “The Stagecoach”, our Mayor, in a rather vague manner, urged citizens to express their enthusiasm for a projected move of the Town Hall from its actual location to The Cultural Center, located at 10 Phelps Street. Weeks later, on October 26th, I read in “Le Journal de Magog” that “moving” was in the air at the Town Hall. I was upset and angry that such news would come to the citizens of Stanstead via a Magog newspaper. Furthermore, I was more than a little concerned that the Town Hall was perhaps going to be my new neighbour, that I, along with more than 20% of the population of Stanstead would be gathering our mail elsewhere, and that our once quiet residential street would become quite busy with traffic to and from a relocated Town Hall. The Town Hall, which is now highly visible to both citizens and visitors to our town, would now be at a location with little or no visibility and parking for staff and visitors would also be less accessible. As a responsible citizen, I then consulted the minutes of the Town Council›s meetings (which are available online). In said minutes of the Town Council on September 6th, 2011, Counseillère Michèle Richard expresses her desire that the location of the Town Hall, be it 425 Dufferin or 10 Phelps be handled with utmost promptness and transparency. The next paragraph states that the Director General had already submitted plans to each councillor on June 30th, prepared by a designer, Jean-maxime Landry, but that it would now be appropriate for funds to be available for an evaluation of the building by an architect. There is no mention of costs to date nor mention of funds being granted for the architect›s evaluation. At the council meeting held on November 7th, only 6 citizens were in attendance. As the economy worsens, not only in Stanstead but in the country as a whole. are there no concerned citizens worried that the Town will spend money on a move which will prove not only costly, but arguably unnecessary. Are we apathetic or simply indifferent? We are the 2nd most taxed municipality in our region. Does anyone care that our taxes will possibly increase due to unnecessary expenditures? I care and I sincerely hope that there are others who do care and will express interest in our municipal affairs. Hey Stansteaders, do you care? Next town meeting is on December 5th at 7 pm. See you there. Frances Bonenfant and
Louise Souligny Phelps Street, Stanstead