O Canada, Remember Me?

Commentary, Culture Wars, Anil Anand

We Canadians are always learning to respond to our own failings, and to the misguided policies and injustices perpetrated by previous generations and governments, and the many institutions that remain unchanged today. Sometimes, clearing the fog of bias, hate and injustice has been a slow process. Nonetheless, the lens is being cleaned, and everyone today has access to that flawed vision of our past. This makes Canada different, a stronger and more just nation—not perfect, but a work in progress.  

Unfortunately, accommodation has become altogether too common. We now have separate Remembrance Day celebrations for Indigenous soldiers who fought in the Canadian army, another for Sikh soldiers and a third for the rest. How about another for Black soldiers, another for Chinese soldiers and another for women? How about Italian Canadians who fought against their own relatives, and one for Jewish soldiers?

The raising and lowering of the Canadian flag to half-mast has become so confusing and meaningless that most people no longer understand or care about it. At the War Memorial, every other nation’s flags are proportionately also lowered and raised with increasing frequency. By creating symbolic accommodations to disparate interests, the very symbolism of those practices and traditions is being irreparably eroded.

Symbols are important, and everyone deserves to honour the traditions and symbols that mark their identities, accomplishments and aspirations. However, building up others’ traditions while tearing mine down is neither fair, nor just or tolerable. Either we are all Canadians or we are all free to tear off our own piece of the flag and replace it with a version of our own identity.  

There should be one Remembrance Day for all. We must honour those who fought and sacrificed for the futures they gave us. They were brothers and sisters regardless of creed, religion or colour. And whether our ancestors were alive then or not, whether we were in Canada then or not, we must remember the benefits we derive from our predecessors’ experiences.  

Everyone who enjoys the protections and freedoms afforded by this nation is obliged to remedy the past and to contribute to a grander tomorrow. That will not happen as long as we keep separating ourselves into more and more silos and self-interest groups. 

Remembrance Day can become better. It can be more inclusive of the prayers, the veterans and the words that commemorate the day, but we must do it together, as one. Remembrance Day should mean that we all stand strong and march together—to show our unequalled ability to be united despite everything, and to demonstrate what is still possible for Canada.

 

Anil Anand is a research associate with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.