My Perspective - Remembering


By Kate Jackman-Atkinson

This week, we marked Remembrance Day.  On Tuesday, at 11 am, in a cascade across the country, the world stopped for two minutes of silence. In these moments of silence, we remembered those known and unknown to us who fought, and sometimes lost their lives, in the service of our country.  

We remember why they fought and what they fought for.

 This year’s services had additional poignancy with the recent deaths of Corporal Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent less than a month ago on Canadian soil. 

The act of remembrance becomes increasingly important. Each year, we get further from the universal experience of war. Each year, we lose those who were directly touched by the World Wars, whether they were at home on at the front.  

In the past, Canadians across the country were touched by war. During the First World War, 650,000 Canadians served. More than 66,000 gave their lives and over 172,000 were wounded. More than one million Canadians served in the Second World War and of those, more than 45,000 gave their lives and another 55,000 were wounded. The presence, or absence, of these men and women was felt by families and friends across the country.

This year marks 100 years since the start of World War I. There is no one left to tell us their personal experiences of that war. Florence Green, the last surviving World War I veteran passed away in 2011. Today, all we have to remember those years are the personal stories of veterans recorded during their lifetimes and the documented history of the war itself. The stories of trench warfare, gas attacks and primitive warplanes paint a particularly horrific image.

This year also marks the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings which helped end the Second World War. More than 14,000 Canadians participated in those landings. There are still a number of Canadians who remember those years and can share their stories of World War II.  

Of equal importance, there are still those who were liberated from German occupation alive to speak of the atrocities committed during that time. Survivors of the Holocaust can recount their first-hand experiences.  By 1945, the Nazi regime had killed 6 million Jews, two out of every three European Jews alive at the start of the war. The regime also targeted the Roma, the disabled and those groups with whom they disagreed based of political, ideological, religious or behavioral grounds. 

Those liberated by the Allied forces remind us why we went to war. With perfect hindsight, we often forget that there were many, including Canadian political leaders and media who were initially supportive of Hitler. 

Since the World Wars, Canadians have been involved in other conflicts including Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan.  Canadian forces have served as part of peacekeeping missions in the Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe.   

This Remembrance Day, we remember those who served. We remember why they served. We remember that war isn’t to be taken lightly, but we remember that some things are worth fighting for.