Some things we’d rather forget

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Remembrance Day is the day after this issue hits stands, and as usual we will take time to pause and reflect on the hardships that our Canadian veterans have gone through in order to secure the freedoms we enjoy in our country. Regardless of whether or not you agree with our current wars, it’s important to recognize veterans’ contributions to our nation.

We have to remember our veterans and their sacrifices fighting for our country. Unfortunately, there are often members of the military that are marginalized or ignored in the grand scheme of Remembrance Day. Too often, we forget about the minorities that fought in the war, especially First Nations soldiers who served in all branches of the military and continue to serve today. We also tend to equate veteran status with the Second World War, and that is far too simplistic. We have veterans not only from World War II, but from a whole host of conflicts that Canada has participated in over the last half century, from Korea to the Balkans to Afghanistan, as well as from various peacekeeping missions around the world. It’s critical that we recognize their courage and sacrifice, as well as the sacrifice of our soldiers who fought in both the Pacific and European theatres of war.

However, Remembrance Day shouldn’t be just about remembering the veterans and the wars they fought in. While the most common expression of memory on this day is heavily based on showing respect for veterans and acknowledging the hardships they went through, it is crucial to remember that it wasn’t just soldiers who were involved in the war.

There are the civilians who were caught in the crossfire. It’s a sad and uncomfortable fact of war, but innocent people died in these massive conflicts. Were their lives any less meaningful than the lives of soldiers who died fighting? While much of the literature around Remembrance Day has to do with the hardships many soldiers faced, there is not much on what civilians had to go through when their lives were swept up in the vicious currents of war. Their stories should not be forgotten and their voice should not go unheard.

Another thing that many will gloss over when remembering the wars are the awful things that Canada did during World War II to Japanese Canadians. Once Japan entered the war in 1941, Canada rounded up thousands of Canadians of Japanese ancestry and placed them in internment camps for the duration of the war. While it can be argued that these internment camps were comfortable places compared to the concentration camps of Germany or Japanese prisoner of war camps, they were hardly pleasant, and in hindsight were an awful infringement upon the rights of Canadian citizens.

Along with our domestic strategy, we also participated in awful raids on German cities carried out throughout the second half of the war, which resulted in the destruction of German cities and loss of civilian life on an atrocious scale. While it is true that our images of a bombed-out London suggest that retaliation in kind was acceptable, it is not reasonable to defend our actions on the fact that we were not the first to commit such acts of wanton destruction. It should be a collective shame of the Allies that they participated in such a destructive and deadly campaign against civilians.

I’m not trying to denigrate what our soldiers did or place blame for the brutality of war. I am merely looking to remind us that, while not being the worst people in the world, we are far from angels. Remembrance Day should not be just about remembering the aspects of war that place Canada in a good light but about realizing that, while we were certainly fighting for the right side in many of these conflicts, we are far from innocent of committing injustices. If we don’t recall the horrors of war on all levels, it becomes easier to repeat them in the future.

Edward Dodd
Op-Ed Editor

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