Cana­di­ans need to do more for Re­mem­brance Day

Winnipeg Sun - - COMMENT - CANDICE MAL­COLM

Sun­day marks the 100 year an­niver­sary of the Ar­mistice that ended the First World War.

The cease­fire was signed in No­vem­ber 1918 and news of the war’s end was quickly and widely cel­e­brated through­out the Bri­tish Empire.

World War One was known at the time as “the war to end all wars” and when the Ger­mans fi­nally sur­ren­dered, Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Lloyd Ge­orge op­ti­misti­cally stated, “I hope we can say that thus, this fate­ful morn­ing, came an end to all wars.”

We cel­e­brate Ar­mistice Day, now known as Re­mem­brance Day, to hon­our the brave men who fought and died to pre­serve our free­dom and our way of life. This de­spite the sad truth that WWI — a dev­as­tat­ing war that left some 40 mil­lion dead, in­clud­ing ap­prox­i­mately 61,000 mem­bers of the Cana­dian Ex­pe­di­tionary Force — was far from the end of all war.

Less than two decades later, the world found it­self en­gulfed in an­other cat­a­strophic world war that re­quired mil­lions more to make the ul­ti­mate sac­ri­fice to stop the spread of fas­cism and to pro­tect free­dom and democ­racy world­wide.

In 1921, the Royal Bri­tish Le­gion cre­ated a cam­paign called the Poppy Ap­peal, based on John Mccrae’s 1915 poem ‘In Flan­ders Fields,’ to raise money in sup­port of in­jured vet­er­ans and their fam­i­lies.

The bright red poppy was seen as a sym­bol of in­spi­ra­tion; the blood-red wild­flower grew in the French and Bel­gian fields that were ripped apart by tanks and ar­tillery and dev­as­tated by hu­man car­nage dur­ing the war.

The poppy rep­re­sented new life and hope.

My great-grand­fa­ther was killed in th­ese fields in 1915, leav­ing be­hind his wife and young chil­dren in Van­cou­ver, B.C.

The poppy lives on, as a small to­ken of our ap­pre­ci­a­tion to those who did not hes­i­tate to risk ev­ery­thing to pro­tect the things they loved the most.

Re­mark­ably, many Cana­di­ans to­day are ig­no­rant of our past and unaware of just how lucky we are to live in a free and demo­cratic so­ci­ety.

A new sur­vey from Ances­try.com found 56% of Cana­di­ans polled could not point out the sig­nif­i­cance of this year’s Re­mem­brance Day an­niver­sary.

Only 46% of Cana­di­ans ex­pect to ob­serve a mo­ment of si­lence on No­vem­ber 11 and only 59% will buy and wear a poppy, down from 70% in 2017.

While 91% of re­spon­dents in Al­berta and the At­lantic provinces plan on com­mem­o­rat­ing Re­mem­brance Day, only 80% will na­tion­wide, down from 86% last year.

Among younger Cana­di­ans, only 72% of peo­ple un­der the age of 35 said they will at­tend a Re­mem­brance Day event. That’s not good enough. Cana­di­ans across civil so­ci­ety, in­clud­ing in our schools, churches, com­mu­nity cen­ters and amongst new Cana­di­ans, need to take the lead in en­sur­ing this tra­di­tion is passed onto fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

Free­dom is not free, it re­quires con­stant vig­i­lance and an un­der­stand­ing of how we came to be the freest and most pros­per­ous civ­i­liza­tion in hu­man his­tory.

One hun­dred years ago, it re­quired a gen­er­a­tion of young men to sac­ri­fice ev­ery­thing in or­der to pro­tect their fam­i­lies back home and en­sure free­dom and se­cu­rity for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

We’d be re­miss if we failed to un­der­stand our his­tory and tra­di­tions as Cana­di­ans, part of which is to spend a few hours each year hon­our­ing the mil­i­tary heroes who fought and died so that we would never have to be ex­posed to the hor­rors of war.

It’s the very least we can do. Lest we for­get.

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