This Remembrance Day, Canada, do what is right

November 11, 2013 | By | Reply More
remembrance day

Bruce Stewart exhorts Canada and Ottawa to do better by its veterans. Photo: Dept. of National Defence.

Remembrance Day – All Canadian governments of your lifetime have systematically betrayed military

Veterans are too often neglected by Canadian governments intent on saving a buck or two. As you gather on Remembrance Day to honour our fallen, resolve that we do better.

As a young child, my grandfather, whose signals unit was at Dieppe (he was not; he was hospitalized with pneumonia, and was therefore one of the six per cent who survived that event), told me how much he wished he’d been well enough to be cleared for duty, so that he could have been with his mates — even if that had meant his death. But that was all he would say about his war service.

remembrance day

Beacon Columnist Bruce A. Stewart.

As a young adult, I visited a friend of mine who’d served in the Scouts and Snipers of the US Marine Corps alongside the Canadians in Korea. He told me that his unit, thought of as the risk takers of all risk takers in the American military on the ground (they did quite a bit of work behind enemy lines), didn’t hold a candle to my countrymen. He’d met a few of the survivors of Kapyong, all of whom wanted simply to finish the war, and go home. He called them the most driven warriors he’d ever seen.

On it goes, through peacekeeping in Sinai, in Cyprus, and around the world, and to the First Gulf War, Kandahar mission, and Libya, our aviators, naval forces, and soldiers have gone and done whatever the government of the day has asked them to do.

Remembrance Day 2013

Across Canada today, wreaths will be laid at war memorials. Years ago, when those letters were carved in the stone, almost everyone on the memorial who wasn’t a sailor or flyer would have been in the same regiment (or handful of regiments, in a large city). That’s because, historically, the regiments were raised locally: they were the community at war.

Today, les vingt-deux (the Vandoos) still carry that type of local loyalty — but few others really do. Edmontonians don’t think of themselves as part and parcel of the Princess Pats, Torontonians don’t think of themselves as one with the Toronto Scottish, or the Queen’s Own Rifles.

And, of course, the very survival of some units now depends on an army of civilian planners located in the Ministry of National Defence (who, somehow, never see their units cut and eliminated) deciding that there’ll only be so many active members of the military, so many reservists — and if a unit with a two-century history or more gets wiped out by the stroke of a pen, well, then, who gives a damn?

Remembrance Day – Caring for veterans after they come home

Likewise, looking after veterans after their service to the nation is seen as a budget matter, to be cut whenever a dollar is needed, rather than as an obligation.

As a result, we have now three generations who feel disconnected from those in their community who do serve, and who feel that their own comforts are far more important than honouring any responsibilities for those who are willing to lay down their lives for their country.

There were people who, two years ago, thought it was a sign of evil that our sailors could once again call themselves members of the Royal Canadian Navy, or our aviators the Royal Canadian Air Force — historic names no less than Princess Pats, VanDoos, QOR, etc. Restoring — on the centennial of the navy’s founding — its historic name wasn’t about “subservience” or “a colonial mindset”, it was about returning a name of honour to those who serve.

Remembrance Day – In Flanders Fields

Canadian children learn, in school, Lt-Col. John McCrae’s 1915 poem, composed in the trenches at the Second Battle of Ypres, “In Flanders Fields”, but few do more than learn the words. But, when it comes to Remembrance Day, on this 95th anniversary of the silencing of the guns of the First World War, it is not enough to simply come to stand in silence and honour the dead.

It is time to step up to the words McCrae wrote:

To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep

And to stop playing games with our veterans and our active military.

It is always harder to do what is right than what is easy, and it is time that we, the civilians who live in peace and freedom thanks to those who stood up and fought, stopped letting our politicians do what is easy.

Today, when you Remember — do more.

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Category: Politics

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