Monday, November 11, 2013


photo: Benoit Aubry, Ottawa (Wikimedia Commons)

Across Canada today, people are attending events, watching ceremonies and wearing poppies in remembrance of those who lost their lives and lived through war around the world.

It's a time of gratitude for willing sacrifice and for melancholy remembrance of all that has been lost.

This year, there was a fair bit of controversy over those who would replace the traditional red poppies with white, to symbolize a commitment to peace. In my view, there has been far too much hyperbole on both sides of the issue. Those who advocate change, accuse those who wear red as glorifying war. Those who love the traditional red poppy have called the white "disrespectful rubbish" and those who advocate for them "morons."

Personally, I think it matters little what colour poppy you wear.

So many young men and women have given their lives in Canada's military. So many more have come home grievously injured in ways that are visible and some that are not. We should remember their sacrifice and work to make sure that medical and psychological services are in place for those who return. Providing a decent pension and access to education and employment is a genuine way to thank a soldier for his or her service.

Some who fought in Canada's "Great Wars" were children who lied (while the military recruiters turned a blind eye) so they could fight for their country and so that they could be employed. All over the world, there are child soldiers being recruited through enticements and threats. On Remembrance Day, I think of all the young people who's future is eradicated or greatly compromised because of the scourge of war.

Thousands of men and women have suffered at the hands of there own brothers and sisters in the military. Since the WW1 and before, soldiers have died because of bad decisions at the top or at the political whim of government. Many have been sexually assaulted, only to face silence and retribution if they have spoken out. The military has been slow to address violence and mental illness within its own ranks. We must take a moment to remember those who have suffered and to celebrate those brave soldiers who've had the courage to speak out and to advocate for change.

You don't have to believe that every battle or even every war was just in order to be grateful. It takes nothing away from veterans to say that we need to do more for those who have come home. It's not disrespectful to remember war while calling for peace. And I know there are many veterans who would agree with me.

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