The History and Significance of Remembrance Day – Why We Remember
November 11th marks the anniversary of the 1918 Armistice agreement that ended the First World War. The perception of war changed for Canadians after the reality of this experience. As the victory of the war ending was celebrated, the awareness of the loss was devastating. 61,000 Canadians lost their lives and the need for commemoration was started as a way to show gratitude towards the soldiers who lost their lives fighting for their country.
During the Second World War, Canadians fought valiantly on battlefronts around the world. More than one million men and women enlisted in the navy, army, and the air force. When the war was over, over 42,000 Canadians had lost their lives. The hard fought end to this war did not provide the troops with a long peace. Canadian soldiers were mobilized to South Korea to fight an invasion by North Korea. When this war ended in 1953, Canadians stayed as part of the peacekeeping force. More recently, the War in Afghanistan has been another war that Canadians have served in. Over the years, more than 118,000 Canadians have died in foreign conflicts.
From observing all the realities and tragedies of wars, it reminds us of the true nature of conflict and the devastation and destruction that war can bring. The red poppy has become the symbol of Remembrance Day as it is associated with death and renewal; the seeds of the flower may remain dormant in the earth for years, but blossom in abundance when the soil is churned. In 1914, poppies appeared in the fields of Flanders and in Northern France and became an inspiration for the famous poem “In Flander’s Fields” by John McCrae. Wearing a poppy has become synonymous with Remembrance Day all over the world as we honor those soldiers who lost their lives in battle.
Monuments commemorating the lives of Canadians who died in conflicts overseas occupy a prominent place in towns and cities throughout Canada. Canada’s most prominent war monument is the National War Memorial in Ottawa, where the Remembrance Day ceremony is attended by the governor general, the prime minister, senior Legion officials and a parade of veterans. It is also attended by the Silver Cross mother; the Royal Canadian Legion chooses the mother of an Armed Forces member killed in military service to represent the mothers of all Canadian veterans killed in military service. The Unknown Soldier is located at the foot of the National War Memorial and contains the remains of an unidentified Canadian soldier who was killed in the First World War. The Tomb represents all Canadians killed overseas who lie in unmarked graves.
We often take for granted our Canadian values and institutions. We have the freedom to participate in life the way we want to under a government of our choice. The Canadians who went to war believed that our values and beliefs were being threatened. On Remembrance Day, honor the veterans who have dedicated their lives to helping us live a life free from war by making a donation to:
vetscanada.org – committed to helping homeless and at-risk veterans reintegrate into civilian life.
woundedwarriors.ca – honors and supports Canada’s ill and injured Canadian Armed Forces members, veterans, First Responders and their families.