A Remembrance Day Incident

A few months ago I wrote a piece about an ignorant busboy (caught up in the anti-Bush hysteria) who felt compelled to comment on my wife's t-shirt of a jeans company that happened to have an American flag on it. The politically challenging remark - in a place where we paying customers - stunned us and left us wondering about the state of freedom in our country.

Fast forward to today. It never fails. Every year Canadians are encouraged to wear Poppy in honor of fallen soldiers. It's not meant to be political but as a somber reminder of a different time when a whole generation were not as lucky as we are in our leisurely ways. I have two poppies. The one I wore today had a Canadian flag pin holding it down on my sweater.

Normally, I just use a regular pin but it would not have held well on a leather coat. So, I opted for the one I never wear but keep on my desk. I just wanted to make sure I was carrying one.

As each passing year goes by, so does a person who forgets or the one who conveniently chooses to politicize the event. The province of Quebec is one of those places. Quebec sent many of its sons and daughters to fight but the issue of Canada mobilizing for war was highly controversial here and it eventually led to a dithering Mackenzie King to enact a conscription law. A double whammy against the wishes of Quebec who felt, not without entire reason, that it was not Canada's war but a war for Britain. In this light, they were similar to American isolationists. English-Canada responded that we were a part of the Empire and as such were compelled to fight alongside the Commonwealth.

Both sides had a point. In the end, the right decision was made. The allies needed Canada it turned out.

Granted, Canada made some horrible decisions - like sending our soldiers with outdated Ross Rifles in the Great War and going ahead with a highly dubious Dieppe campaign during the Second War- but the country matured fast during this time. Our foreign policy had yet to come of age and we were caught between wanting outright Canadian independence and the reality of existing in the bosom of the British Empire. Lest we forget Canada became a country in 1867. Today, Canada behaves very much like they are country in search of itself.

Off we went to war. And the rest is history. Now, we remember. However, many have taken the years that have healed all wounds to engage in revisionism or to rehash old stories. Quebec remains rooted in a 1950s mentality that simply does not resonate well with contemporary times. They often talk of English Canada as one monolithic block - which of course it isn't.

Someone, after examining my pin, told me today that they would never hold the flag. Not that I asked. I found this comment curious for a couple of reasons. One, never mind that Canada's present flag was invented in 1968. We fought under the British flag during the Great Wars. Second, what was the point of saying this on such a month? Again, politics always overwhelms our better judgment. This was not a matter of free speech but someone questioning my rights. Today, people can be ignorant and feel emboldened to showcase it. I responded carefully and measured since many people were around.

Above all, this is not what offended me. What saddened me was the fact that all these people, from French and English Canada and of all nationalities and barely past their 18th birthdays, died for us. It really isn't about the politics but the human side of it. It went right through the empty mind of one individual today.


  1. That's the things about politicians. They NEED to politicize everything they can. It's how they up their importance.

  2. Both sides had a point. In the end, the right decision was made. The allies needed Canada it turned out.

    Because many French-Canadians bitterly opposed participation in "England's war," Canada's prime minister Mackenzie King decreed in 1940 that only volunteers would be sent overseas, and that even these men would fight only in Europe. As a consequence, by 1944 some 70,000 fit Canadian soldiers -- the "zombies" as they were known -- remained at home, doing nothing more useful than guarding prisoners of war.

    "We had five divisions, or the equivalent, of trained men sitting back there in Canada," lamented a Canadian officer bitterly, "and that s.o.b. Mackenzie King just wouldn't send them overseas." At the very end of the war, when 15,000 non-volunteers were drafted for overseas services, more than three-quarters of them deserted before embarkation.


    But collectively, the Canadian Army was a weak and flawed instrument because of the chronic manning problems imposed by its nation's politics. Canada's soldiers paid the price of their prime minister's pusillanimity on the flooded battlefields of Holland in the winter of 1944.

    Armageddon, Max Hastings, pp. 135-6

  3. Thanks for this. Yes, this is accurate. There were many inefficiencies (Which I allused to very briefly. Sam Hughes was a mad jerk. Mackenzie King refused to take a stand - much like the Liberals today. In this light, Canada was second rate and continues to be. Still, we need to disassociate this with the successes of the military who suffered as a consequence) as there were among the British. In fact, the British didn't help matters. Canada had to contend with the typical condescending attitude of the British and Americans and this made them all the more determined to succeed. Pierre Berton also made a similar case in 'Marching As To War'. Too many men died needlessly. However, I disgaree with the last point. Weak and flawed they may have been but that's my point - with the odds against them, it made their successes all the more remarkable. The bottom line is that Canada spilled blood and earned praise from the Germans, who caught off guard by this upstart nation, considered them among the most ferocious and tenacious fighters - again despite problems don't forget Canada was 47 years old in WWI and 72 when they entered WWII - among the allies.


Mysterious and anonymous comments as well as those laced with cyanide and ad hominen attacks will be deleted. Thank you for your attention, chumps.