The First and Second World Wars consumed the entire planet. While not every country sent soldiers into conflict or had blood from battlefields spilt on their soil, the political world of alliances and the tectonic loss of life was felt around the world. The League of Nations, and then the United Nations attempted to create a platform for countries to communicate and to be diplomatic before declaring war to solve their grievances. It has been 70 years since the last world war but it becomes increasingly important that we, as a planet, continue to learn from the atrocities of the past as the number of living WWII veterans falls. Global warming, water scarcity and the greatest number of refugees, displaced people and immigrants ever recorded fleeing from their homes could lead to conflict in the future. Remembrance Day presents us with a day to reflect on the mistakes of the past, but also to take a moment to think about the future. But talking about our Remembrance Day experiences in the office revealed that it’s a very different day depending on what city or country you are in. Regardless of what the day means to you or whether you support wearing a red or white poppy, or a bleut de France, the most important thing here is that we talk about war and conflict, and remember, reflect, and learn from the past.
Throughout elementary school and high school, Remembrance day was a noticeably different day. Emblazoned with red poppies, many of our teachers would take a portion of their allotted class time to describe the atrocities of war and the bravery required of the soldiers. The floor would briefly be opened for students to share their personal stories of an ancestor’s selfless sacrifice for the country’s future. Few would have accounts, but those who did had stories rife with detail and a personal stake. A few short moments before 11 a.m., a voice would project from the classroom intercom, instructing us all to take a moment of silence in honor of the soldiers who gave their lives in the name of peace. On rare occasions, a song consisting of a solitary horn would accompany our pensive silence. Though this only lasted a minute and class would resume as normal for the remainder of the day, the message was clear and the thought of war’s many unfortunate effects remained, at least for a day.
– Samuel Provost-Walker, Music editor
Remembrance Day is dramatically different in British Columbia. The weeks leading up to the day are spent organizing ceremonies and researching our friends’ and family’s history—whether it was our grandparent’s participation in WWI or WWII or a friend whose parent is a veteran or part of the Armed Forces, it didn’t matter. We would cut out construction paper poppies and study the words to “In Flanders Fields,” and in the older grades emphasis is put on studying the Holocaust and learning about the death tolls of war.
Nov. 11 itself is a provincial holiday where schools and shops are closed. People attend somber ceremonies at their local cenotaphs, where politicians and local business owners place wreaths. No one laughs, no one claps, and even as a small child I remember feeling the weight of importance when the clocks struck 11 a.m. and the entire crowd stands in somber silence for two minutes. A trumpeter breaks the silence with the “Last Post” song, the Air Force flies planes over the city and at different ceremonies ceremonial guns are fired or choirs sing “In Flanders Fields.” It’s a somber day of reflection which always forced stories of war into my otherwise peaceful Canadian upbringing. We were taught to remember the horrors of the past, to remember that violence can be forced upon us and to remember that people fought and died for the country we have today.
-Michelle Gamage, Editor-in-chief
Remembrance Day in France is called Armistice Day and is a very different affair. Nov. 11 is just about the First World War because it commemorates the day the war ended. It isn’t a huge deal although classes are cancelled for the day and there are ceremonies broadcast on the television. Younger generations are not really emotional about the day because there aren’t any living grandparents who fought in the war. Compared to London, England, where there is a lot of patriotism and the poppy is plastered all over busses and the metro, Armistice Day in France is a much smaller and more somber day.
In Canada the day feels a lot more like a propaganda plug, with videos talking about how great the Armed Forces are all over YouTube, Facebook, and the T.V. There are public announcements on Twitter and your Facebook feed is crammed with notifications by the Canadian government, which I don’t follow and am not “friends” with. The day seems to be less about remembering and more about encouraging Canadian foreign intervention policies and encouraging Canadian soldiers to head into conflict zones. Why are my taxes going towards these Call of Duty videos? Ridiculous.
-Pierre A. Lepetit, Production manager