World War I officially ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 with the signing of the Armistice by Germany and the Entente. Since that time we in the British Commonwealth have taken pause on that day to remember all those who have fought and died in all wars for our freedom. Originally called Armistice Day we now call it Remembrance Day. It is a particularly important day for Canadians as we paid a very dear price in both the world wars. We are grateful for the American contribution which tilted the odds in the Allies favour at the end of the second World War, but they never joined in active European conflict until 1943. Canada had been there since 1939. We lost 46,998, with another 55,000 injured. In WWI we lost 66,665 men – mostly young sons and fathers. It was Canadian soldiers that decided the eventual outcome of both wars. This is the image of when Canadian troops liberated Holland in May 1945.
In the last ten years we have lost another 158 in the war in Afghanistan. I personally believe we have no place being there in the first place. But for these young soldiers who have lost their lives, that is not a sentiment they are allowed to hold. They must go where they are sent, and must do what they are told, and they do it out of a profound sense of duty. Every time we see that motorcade travelling down the Highway of Heroes carrying another dead Canadian soldier we need to remember that there are still people out there laying down their lives for us.
Our freedoms have come at a very great price. In Winnipeg there is a war memorial with these words on it; “They gave their tomorrow, that we might have our today”. It is an extraordinary thought that should cause us great pause. They have given up their future for complete strangers like you and me. Jesus said, No greater love does a man have than to lay down his life for his brothers.
Last week Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger paid our veterans the ultimate insult when he decreed that children in Manitoba schools were now permitted to opt out of Remembrance Day observances if they so desired. Specifically he said, “We have religious freedom in Canada and if there’s a very specific reason why people, for religious purposes, don’t want their children (to attend), that is an option that they have.” What? What religious reasons? Remembrance Day has nothing to do with religion. It has to do with honouring our war dead. Even if one is a strict pacifist (for religious or other reasons), that does not change the fact that someone laid down their life for their freedom to be a… pacifist. This is not rocket science. This is simple common sense reasoning. You cannot opt out of the historical fact that individual Canadians have had to defend our freedoms at great personal cost.
If it is somehow a thinly veiled reference to immigrants of world religions other than Judeo-Christianity, again, that does not change the fact that someone else died for their freedom to come to Canada and practice whichever religion they chose. I am appalled at the Premier’s decision and equally appalled that there has been almost no public outcry in support of the veterans. I do give full marks to Federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney who bluntly tweeted, “I find it offensive, they don’t opt out of the freedoms secured by our war dead.”
I would expect a provincial Premier to be a little smarter than this. This is yet another example of religious pluralism gone bad. Elected officials do not have the right to rewrite history in an attempt to accommodate those that might be offended by it. If somehow parents find offensive the fact that Canadian men and women are willing to sacrifice their lives for their children, then they can keep their kids home from school that day. But let’s not promote ingratitude by revisionist history.