Live from the Archives

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A look back at a Fulcrum remembrance day editorial

Originally published on Nov.11, 2003.

There are only 11 Canadians still alive who fought in the great war; 11 Canadians who fought in far off places like the Somme and Passchendaele. Today only 11 Canadians who can describe the horror of mustard gas or understand the truly amazing accomplishments that occurred at Vimy Ridge.

More than a million Canadians participated in the second World War. Of them, just over 293,000 remain with us. They fought on the shores of Dieppe, in the waters of the Atlantic, and in Hong Kong’s defence. However, they too are disappearing; with an average age of 81, the veteran population is an endangered demographic.

In total, nearly two million men and women have served Canada during times of conflict. Of these two million, 114,000 never made it back to Canadian soil. 

It is important to remember these men and women. It is also important to remember those who were lost and those who came home. It is important to remember Canada as it was before and Canada as it is after each great conflict. 

Remembrance Day is a celebration of life. It is a celebration of the good that is in people. Canada has a short but exemplary military history and Remembrance Day is a time to honour those who gave so much and asked for so little.

It is a day to remember the history of Canada, but also to examine the present.

This November 11 carries with it the recent memories of Canadians killed in service. In April of last year, four Canadians were killed in a friendly fire accident in Afghanistan. Even more recently, two Canadians were killed while clearing landmines.

These new casualties provide a glimpse into the pain and suffering that must have occurred during the Great Wars. This allows a new generation a better, and much needed, understanding of conflict. 

At present, there are 2,300 Canadians fighting in the “War on Terror” in Afghanistan, and another maintaining the peace in Bosnia.

These numbers are insignificant when compared with Canada’s contribution to the Great Wars; however, they are no less important. 

Remembering Canadians who served or who are in service is important because these people believe in Canada. 

They believe in the freedoms and rights all Canadians enjoy. They believe in the right to watch hockey on Saturday night, to drink strong beer, and to voice opposition to the government. 

They are willing to give their lives to spread the idea that is Canada. This idea, which allows for equality, prosperity, and choice, is one that needs to be spread. 

It is easy to see the horrors of war. The true evil of humankind is never more apparent than during wartime. However, even if the merits of war can be debated, the merits of Canadian service men and women cannot. 

Remembrance Day should be a day of reflection and thanks. Canadians everywhere should remember all that has been lost but also all that has been secured through losses.

The men and women who serve in the defence of Canada do so for every Canadian, without discrimination, without question, and seemingly without fear.

Thousands have given their lives in the name of Canada, and it is likely more will in the future. On Remembrance Day, Canadians need to remember the sacrifices that these people made. What is more important, however, is for Canadians to cherish, every day, the opportunities and luxuries made possible by the sacrifices of the fallen.

Fun Facts about this editorial

  • There are no more living WWI veterans, the last person who served in WWI died in 2012.
  • It is estimated that there are only 33,200 living Canadian WWII veterans.
  • More than 40,000 Canadian Armed Forces members served in the Afghanistan theatre of operations between 2001 and 2014.