LEST WE FOR­GET …

The Globe and Mail (BC Edition) - - EDITORIAL -

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 Re­mem­brance Day, 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

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