A movement to re-imagine Nov. 11 appears to be nibbling away at the sanctity of Canada’s day of remembrance – a day set aside to honor those who have sacrificed their lives for our country.
One of these movements involves the distribution of white poppies, says Inga Kruse, executive director of the Royal Canadian Legion B.C./Yukon Command.
It’s an idea started in Britain in 1933 as a protest against wars of any kind. With the rise of fascism in Europe soon after, the idea never took hold.
Its resurgence now, though, has Kruse baffled.
“It demonstrates a tremendous naivety and misunderstanding of the red poppy,” she said.
There is a tendency to be complacent about the very things for which we should be most grateful.
“It’s got nothing to do with me really,” said Pam Tremont, 16, a Victoria High School student.
But Ashley Rourke, 17, doesn’t see it that way. “I have a couple of friends whose dads served in the army and I know how hard it was for them,” said Rourke.
“Canada should be proud of what we do in the world. Remembrance day is a day to show that pride.”
Capt. (N) Luc Cassivi, commanding officer at CFB Esquimalt, knows Nov. 11 doesn’t resonate with some young people the way it once did but insists the day has lost none of its relevance.
“(Remembrance Day) is about keeping alive in the minds of the young how we’ve gotten to where we are today. You can’t shy away from your responsibility to do the right thing when the time comes,” said Cassivi.
“There’s still a need for the human race to answer the pleas of others … to give them the same freedom we enjoy and stand against the darker side of humanity. Use this day to remember that and honor those who have already made that sacrifice.”
Perhaps no one understands that position better than Tim Garthside, a 29-year-old veteran of the Afghanistan war.
For him, Remembrance Day is about awareness that people like him have willingly gone into harm’s way and sacrificed themselves to protect the interests and moral imperatives of Canadians.
He said Canadians should embrace Remembrance Day and respect that sacrifice, but that the remembrance should extend beyond Nov. 11.
“Nov. 12 rolls around and it seems as though most people just go straight back on with their lives with little to no understanding that I don’t go through a day that I don’t think about those who have fallen and those who are still suffering; that I couldn’t forget if I tried,” said Garthside.
The challenge may be rooted in numbers.
“During the ‘great wars’, everybody knew someone who was serving … often who had died,” said Kruse.
“Today’s conflicts aren’t like that, but the sacrifices of the men and women who serve are no less.”
Kruse said that she feels that there is an opportunity to redefine Nov. 11 as a day when we acknowledge that there are and always have been people willing to protect what Canadians hold dear.
“We should never forget that there’s a cost to our freedom and ideals,” she said.
“This is the second Canada Day. It’s the day we thank those who sacrifice so that we can live in peace.”