On Monday when people honour our fallen soldiers of wars long past and those serving in uniform now, Canadians will need to start thinking about the future of Remembrance Day and how it will remain connected to new generations.
Memories and stories of the First World War now entirely reside in photos, films and text. Those with living memories of D-Day or hunting U-boats on the Atlantic or fighting on the Korean Peninsula become fewer every year.
There will be a future not far off when students in Victoria won’t be able to hear first hand from veterans of the Second World War and the Korean War why they fought for the freedoms of others.
More recently, Canadians fought and died in the mountains and badlands of Afghanistan, trying nobly, but perhaps futilely, to bring peace and security to a nation with more entrenched problems than can be solved by military action.
Although that conflict certainly won’t be far from the memories of the veterans and families of that conflict, Afghanistan is also fading as a significant era for many Canadians.
Understanding our past and linking it in meaningful ways to the messages and meaning of Remembrance Day remains a challenge for our society. It will require parents and grandparents to teach their kids their family stories and personal connections with past conflicts to drive home what sacrifice really means.
Canada, to varying degrees, is ambivalent about its military and wartime history. Remembrance Day isn’t a statutory holiday in Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba and Nova Scotia. Our southern neighbour offers two official days of the year to celebrate its veterans and to remember past conflicts.
The frontline face of Remembrance Day in Victoria are dedicated Legion volunteers, a group also aging and with few new people willing to take up the cause.
For Remembrance Day to survive, the values of sacrifice, service and courage of the past need to be rekindled for the future.