“I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.”
This is Remembrance Day, that one day a year where we collectively commemorate and honour those who have fought or fallen for the great country of Canada. This year feels very different and it saddens me. I have heard many people this year tell me that the veterans are all dying off, as if age defines a veteran. The only thing age has a role in Remembrance Day is the acknowledgement of what conflict they fought in.
My dad and his peers fought in Europe during World War 2 but I know others who served in Afghanistan in 2001, Iraq in 2003 or the Libyan intervention in 2011. Age does not decide a veteran. A Canadian committed to all things Canadian does so even when it involves taking up arms for those unable to defend themselves. .
Many years ago people left the farm or the mining industry in Manitoba to stand up for the Canadian way. They left the wheat fields and potash mines of Saskatchewan to represent the ideals of Canadians. They left the logging and fishery industries of BC to take the diversity of Canada to stand against the rise of fascism in Europe. Teenagers were leaving the manufacturing lines and mining industries of Ontario bringing the diversity of Canada to help stranger from being slaughtered thousands of miles away. Thousands left good forestry jobs or the ranks of longshoreman from Quebec’s St. Lawrence Seaway to stand in unity and proudly display the compassion that the world know was Canadian. They left the fisheries and shipyards of the Maritimes as part of the diversity that has made Canada the pride of the world.
Many also left these diverse and fertile lands as peacekeepers. Canada had international attention as a strong contingent of blue beret clad peacekeepers. They helped maintain order during civil unrest in many parts of the world. Of just over 125,000 peacekeeper’s Canada has lost approximately 130 veterans. Even during times of peace the diversity and compassion of Canadians rose to the surface and stood out to help the world.
Canada has always been there for the world. Canada has always been diverse and compassionate. as a Canadian I am here, as was my father, for others. That is what Canada does, we extent a helping hand. Our strength is in our diversity and acceptance of others. The world knows that about us but it is being eroded.
I took the time in my life to live in other areas of our great country and build a better, more inclusive, understanding of exactly what Canada is. I was born in Manitoba, grew up in Alberta, lived and worked in Toronto, Montreal and Halifax. Before retiring I spend the last twenty years of my career living in BC but upon retirement I returned to Calgary. Calgary has always been home and I’m proud to be Calgarian. However with the hate and bigotry I see growing in Alberta it is becoming increasingly difficult to be proud.
We are a diverse nation and we should be proud of that. On today of all day’s we should be celebrating those brave individuals that went off to strange lands to defend a concept that was really alien to so many receiving the help. The world respected us and we respected ourselves. People like my father fought, worked and grew a family of proud Canadians.
We are proud Canadians because of the time and effort dad put into helping build this nation. He would never have used that energy to help grow those things he fought against, a nation intent on tearing itself apart. He was a proud vet who was there to help pick you up, not kick you down because you may have been marginalized in some way. He was there to extent a hand of friendship and provide assistance (he spend years as a scout master and that was his creed). It was never his intend to drag people down with the type of hateful rhetoric we see spewed today by so many self serving politicians.
I am proud to be Canadian and I am proud of our diversity. I know if my father were alive today he would be disgusted. The words “I didn’t fight for this” echo in my mind because I know that’s what he would be feeling. If you are truly a proud Canadian make everyday Remembrance Day and think about what got us here. To all of those vets out there, young or old, I salute you…AND LETS KEEP CANADA ALIVE!