Monday, 12 November 2012

Le Jour du Souvenir

Remembrance Day was instituted to commemorate the end of the First World War on the 11th hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month in 1918.

I was at a ceremony in the Rotonda of Tabaret Hall at the University of Ottawa on Laurier street. The event was presided by our former Governor General and Commander in Chief, the Right Honourable Mikaëlle Jean.  The University Archivist had arranged an exhibit and I noticed two new plaques on the wall with the names of all the University Students who being over 18 years of age had volunteered to go to war. There were more than 1000 names, I was amazed looking at all those names, imagine 98 years ago all these young people stepping forward to go to war. At a time when people did not travel much if at all, to go to Europe by transport ship on often rough seas, knowing that you might die and never see your loved ones again. But they were motivated and thought enough of their country Canada or the Empire or God knows what, to simply go, to serve. What made me think was the fact that today in 2012 the University has about 60,000 students back in 1918 the University had less than 5,000 students, so a large proportion of them went to war.

The University had a remembrance ceremony every year until 1978. I was attending Ottawa U. then and I remember that a group of student was against such ceremony to remember our war dead. The reason being at the time that such ceremonies simply glorified war, those who served where either naive fools or part of some kind of Capitalist conspiracy. So the University President at the time an elderly priest who did not want any trouble simply caved in and the ceremony of remembrance was done away with. It was only in 1998 that it was re-instated. I remember encountering back in the 1970's and 1980's such anti-war sentiment, a lot of it had to do with the end of the Vietnam War in Asia and many people had arguments that were half-baked but were considered nonetheless by society in general. There was a real confusion on the past and the present and many who voiced opposition came from comfortable backgrounds and had never wanted for nothing in their lives. They could judge others actions without ever having met them.

Today in Canada more and more people participate in commemoration ceremony, there is a better understanding of what sacrifice means and what these men and women did for us. Maybe this is because of Afghanistan and the 10 years Canadian troops served there for a war we do not fully understand. But we can certainly understand the First or Second World War and the Korean conflict.

We should never forget their sacrifice and remember to thank those who returned for what they did.

1 comment:

  1. I definitely think that Afghanistan re-invigorated public attention to Remembrance Day, along with the passing of the WW1 and WW2 generations.