LEST WE FORGET …
In the Peace Tower of Parliament is a small room devoted to those who lost their lives fighting for Canada in various conflicts since we became a nation. Each day, a page is turned in the remembrance books so that all who died in defence of Canada are visible to the public for a short time.
When I was an MP, I frequently took visiting constituents to the Peace Tower. One visit stands out: On the page of the remembrance book in the Peace Tower was my name: William McCrossan. There aren’t many McCrossans in Canada: My father used to show me those few names in the Toronto phone book. So I was astounded to learn that a William McCrossan had died at Vimy Ridge in 1916.
My wife and I have frequently bicycled through the battlefields of the First World War and have seen the huge numbers of war graves. After I left politics, I made a point of revisiting the Vimy Memorial to pay tribute to my namesake. Lest we forget.
William McCrossan Former MP for York Scarborough On the 100th anniversary of the armistice that marked the end of the First World War, I will not wear a poppy, although I acknowledge the bravery, fortitude and patriotism of our veterans and deplore the neglect of their needs by successive governments.
Remembrance Day observance has the effect, indeed in many quarters the intended effect, of perpetuating the myth that Canada’s wars were tragic necessities, fought to protect our democracy and our way of life, and thereby securing acceptance of our ongoing military adventures, increasing military budgets and participation in an ever-expanding international arms trade.
While a strong case can be made for a moral imperative to take up arms against the Axis powers in the Second World War, the key condition that made this struggle justifiable, namely that the populations of the countries with which we were at war were eventually able to accept the premise that their governments were aggressors, is very unlikely to recur. In the great majority of cases, wars do not protect democracy: They undermine it. And no way of life is worth the utter obscenity of mass organized killing.
When Canada learns the real lessons of 1918 and stops participating in the war machine, I will observe Remembrance Day.
Alexander Rapoport Toronto My thanks to Adam Chapnick for reminding us about the families of Canadian Forces (On RemembranceDay, Don’t Forget The Families – Nov. 9). My husband’s grandmother, Eleanor McGregor, had two toddlers and was newly pregnant when her husband, George, went off to fight in Italy. She spoke of the three-plus years during the Second World War that she was alone with her brood in a matter- of-fact tone, and never complained. According to her, most of the women around her faced similar challenges. When George finally returned (thankfully) to reunite with his family and meet his then three-year-old daughter for the first time, he was a changed man. He was diagnosed with “shell shock ,” and I can only imagine that their future was not the one they had imagined for themselves. On Remembrance Day, I always pause to be grateful not just for the sacrifices made by my heroic grandfather-in-law, but by his valiant wife and her friends, too.
Kelley Korbin West Vancouver Every Nov. 11, I lay a wreath in my father’s memory. Donald Evans was a navigator on a Lancaster bomber, shot down, hidden by the French Resistance, and liberated by the British in September, 1944. When I was growing up, he rarely mentioned the war. Years later, contemplating his own demi se, he began to talk more; I realized how miraculous his survival had been.
On the night he was shot down, his squadron lost five of 16 aircraft; three exploded killing all on board. His aircraft turned for England, with two engines on fire. Half way to the coast, they realized they couldn’t keep the plane in the air. He bailed out, hitting the ground hard, injuring his back and leg. He was picked up and hidden by the Resistance. His crew members were all captured and spent the rest of the war as PoWs.
In 1989, I took him to France to look for the people who’d hidden him: Amazingly, we found the old farmer (young in 1944) and his wife. It was a very emotional reunion after 45 years.
My father told me that when he joined 106 Squadron early in April, 1944, no crew had completed a tour in over a year. He used to tell me that he had been living on borrowed time since 1944, and I now realize he wasn’t exaggerating. His survival (he lived to be 87) was truly miraculous.
Garth M. Evans Vancouver