This year, many calendar days marking special events have overlapped on my new blog entry schedule. This coincidence is beneficial for those of my loyal readers outside of our Canadian borders who hope to catch a glimpse of what we are all about up while we sit comfortably on top of the globe – except in the winter where we would gladly switch positions with Cuba. Furthermore, I am able to share with my fellow Canucks a bird’s eye view on our rich history we tend to neglect because we are too busy. I continue to underline our heritage as the backbone of our identity and nationhood.
|The tomb of the unknown soldier, Ottawa, Canada|
On November 11, many nations that participated in the Great War, take a moment to honour their brave soldiers who put everything on the line for their country. The Dominions of the British Empire (including Canada) joined immediately without hesitation in support of the United Kingdom’s declaration of war against Germany. Our engagement in the First World War changed our history through our many sacrifices and contributions, enabling us to become more independent – although this did create a rift between the French and English populations – and distance ourselves from Britannia. Canadian troops fought as a distinct unit and our efforts in the battles of Vimy Ridge, Passchendaele and the Battle of Somme continue to be remembered especially on this day.
During the Great War, Canada’s casualties stood at 67,000 killed and 173,000 wounded out of an expeditionary force of 620,000 people mobilized at the end of the war. These numbers could appear low in comparison to other manpower contributions (it certainly does not seem that way to me), Canada’s population at the beginning of the war in 1914 stood at approximately 7,879,000. In other words, our contribution to the defense of the Motherland against Germany and her allies represented about 8% of our total population. Canadians were considered expert and professional soldiers and were greatly feared by the Germans as an omen of impending attack. Aside from being directly involved on the European front, our people were also busy on the home front, manufacturing goods, ammunition and other strategic supplies.
Canada had further contributed 1.1 million soldiers in WWII and was the first Commonwealth country to sends troops to the United Kingdom. Following these two bloody world wars, our armed forces were amongst the largest on the planet yet our military began to downsize and transform into an international policing contingent. Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson spearheaded the concept of peacekeeping missions in the newly created United Nations, seeking to avoid the traumatizing gruesome bloodshed of the last 40 years. Peacekeeping is an attempt to create conditions that favour lasting peace by placing the blue helmets in the crossfire between warring factions. There are several issues existing in the operational protocol for units serving as peacekeepers although there have been successful missions to Burundi, Cambodia, Guatemala, Haiti and Suez, just to name a few.
|Crowds gather at the National War Memorial to pay tribute|
Remembrance Day is not a moment to dwell on the politics behind conflicts in which Canadian soldiers and other service men wearing any other flag on their shoulder have paid with their lives for. Today, we recognize their efforts, their lives, their service and their devotion. These men and women put everything on the line for us. Thanks to them, we can stay away from the battlefield, form strong opinions and debate until the cows come home. Their lives are forever changed by combat, bringing back difficult memories which we cannot even imagine which can even lead to post traumatic stress disorders affecting their entire families. Others left their loved ones behind and never came back. Lest we forget.