Sadly, the relative importance of Remembrance Day in Canada depends on a frequently capricious populace. Too often citizens are prodded toward contempt of veterans by spiteful provocateurs rallying against a militarism that exists solely in their imaginations. Malaise, I suppose, is a more common condition – our country has been free from the Total War that engulfed the first half of the twentieth century. Then there is the simplistic equation we all learn in elementary school: war = bad. Add our standard additive of anti-Americanism into the mix and you’ve got yourself a crappy Remembrance Day.
I doubt that this year will be dominated by the spittle-splattering diatribes of peace activists (like much of the early 1990’s were), but it will be overshadowed by the ever-increasing unpopularity of the mission in Afghanistan.
Remembrance Day is a solemn civic celebration of the unique relationship between soldiers and citizens manifested through the uniquely Canadian mechanisms of Representative Government & Constitutional Monarchy. I realize the philosophical ins-and-outs of the relationship bore most people, and the implications fly over the heads of many more, but the theory behind the employment of the profession-of-arms in Canada – in particular the obligation of unlimited liability – is nevertheless a vital component in our society.
Remembrance Day allows us citizens to take a moment to remember and to thank our fellow citizens who enlisted as soldiers in service of the rest of us. And when we have today, and in the years past, called upon these soldiers to go forth and struggle against the enemies of Canada – some never to return – they obey in proud allegiance to our common democracy. Whether these wars of Canada are ever just is moot. The soldiers do not decide which battles are fought. To do so is anathema to their profession and their honour. The Canadian citizenry – through their elected representatives – instructs the military where to go, what to do, who to fight, and – when required – to forfeit their lives.
This type of special relationship between citizens deserves to be commemorated annually. The ceremony assists in binding all of us together. Remembrance Day is an act of renewing our vows as a citizen of Canada.