Wearing the poppy or gathering at war memorials across the country are ways many Canadians will commemorate Remembrance Day. Taking two minutes of silence, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the time the armistice of World War I was signed in 1918, is still generally practiced to remember the over 100,000 Canadians who lost their lives. This day is also used to remember any fatalities in any war and to reflect on those who fought bravely. However, what does Remembrance Day mean to Concordia students? Will they be commemorating it?
“Santayana said that ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,'” says Adam Paige, a 23-year-old administration student. “I hear people today compare the Jews in Israel to the Nazis. I truly believe that anyone that would make that comparison is abysmally ignorant of the history of the Nazi regime. Remembrance Day is just that: a day not to forget, to learn from the past so that we can have wisdom today to build a better tomorrow.”
For Paige, Remembrance Day has a very personal meaning. “My grandfather served in World War II as an officer in the Black Watch,” he says. “It is a good way to think of him every year and thank God for the sacrifice that he [grandfather] and others made to safeguard the freedom of the Western world from tyranny and massacre.”
His way of paying tribute to the veterans of WWII? Paige read William Shirer’s 1,500 page tome The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.
Cathy Pott, an applied human sciences student, is also extremely thankful to the veterans. “Remembrance Day gives me the opportunity to remember those who paid with their lives to protect us from tyrannical world powers,” she says. “It makes me feel profoundly grateful, especially since I come from Dutch stock. The Canadians did so much for the Dutch in liberated Holland, and I, as a child of an immigrant people, owe them my life.”
For Pott, the commemoration of Nov. 11 is inevitable. “I plan to spend time with a good friend as well as my family. With my friend, I may spend time praying for older people we know who were affected by war, for Canada’s role in the world as a peacekeeping nation, and just thanking God for His protection over our lives. We don’t take it for granted!” she says.
Still for others, Remembrance Day strikes an even deeper cord. While Pott will be remembering the sacrifices of those who died in the wars, Lana Chackal will also be thinking of a very special lady.
“Since my mom passed away on November 14, 1999, it is a time to remember [the veterans] but also [my] mother,” says the 22-year-old English literature student. “It’s important to remember what others have done for us and to remember the person that my mother was.”
Chackal admits that she will be paying homage on Remembrance Day. “I find [the veterans] courageous and sacrificial. Not everyone is willing to do what those people did, [and] I will be wearing my poppy and remembering them. I do pause and remember what they did even though I don’t know much about it. A lot of innocent people lost their lives just like in 9/11,” she points out. “Also, because my mother died around that time, it makes me stop and pause even more.”
For 21-year-old English literature student Christina Gudzio, taking a moment of silence at 11 a.m. on Remembrance Day, is a small way to honour the veterans. “It is the least we can do,” she says. “They made tremendous sacrifices, so remembering the day is our way of saying, ‘Thank you.'”
Even though he will not be doing anything to commemorate Remembrance Day besides perhaps wearing a poppy, Steve Tavone, a 23-year-old independent student, agrees with Gudzio. “A lot of times we don’t remember our past. I like the fact that we haven’t forgotten.”
For others, Remembrance Day means virtually nothing. “It holds almost no significance for me,” admits Eric Lis, a 20-year-old psychology student. “I’ve never liked the fact of setting one day aside to remember something when it should be remembered all year long. I think Remembrance Day glorifies war as a means to an end. It doesn’t glorify the soldiers; it glorifies the battle. There is no glory. There is no honour.”
Attitudes like this only depress Miriam Rodriguez, a biochemistry student. “I know that a lot of young people don’t know what Remembrance Day is about. We have to keep it alive and educate students in school,” she says. “A lot of them think that [Remembrance Day is] not important because it happened a long time ago. This is sad.”
In regards to this, Anthony Synnott, the chair of the sociology and anthropology department as well as a sociology professor, believes it reflects the fact that times change.
“History is not being taught well in high school. It doesn’t have very much meaning,” he says. “Military interest peaks when Canadians are killed in Rwanda or Afghanistan. Canada is a relatively peaceful country, and war would not be memorialized as it would be in Europe.”
He points out that since he had two cousins killed in war, Remembrance Day means more to him than it would to his sons who did not have any relatives killed.
“It used to be two minutes silence when I was growing up in the U.K. We used to have a minute of silence to remember Nov. 11. Time changes things, and I don’t think you can go back.”