Remembering What Feedom Means

November 11th is an important, somber day. Up here in Canada, we call it Remembrance Day. In the States, it’s Veteran’s Day. Whatever you call it, honoring the men and women who sacrificed so much, from the Boer War, through World War I and II, all the way up to Iraq and Afghanistan, is a necessity.

Out in Edmonton, Alberta, an uproar has erupted about a handful of children opting out of the Remembrance Day ceremonies at the school. Wanting to support veterans, the media snatched this story and ran with it, making it a national story. Hell it might even be international by now. People on a local radio station Facebook page comments on the story, most showing righteous indignation, criticizing the school, the parents, saying they aren’t patriotic, they aren’t honoring those men and women who fought and died for our country.

Enter the Premier of Alberta, Alison Redford, this week’s bastion of veteran’s rights. She said she was disappointed by the Edmonton school board, letting parents pull their children out of Remembrance Day ceremonies.  Redford went on to say, “I believe that as a Canadian, it is our duty to respect and to honour everyone who has made that sacrifice.”

I agree. But here’s the thing, there’s a law, called the Remembrance Day Act, that states “all pupils shall either attend the ceremony or remain in the school, silent, during the ceremony.” If this were Communist China, the U.S.S.R., or some oppressive regime, ALL children would be forced to attend, no matter what. Sorta like what Alison Redford is implying, or at the very least, applying via guilt.

After reading this story, and all the people of Facebook, and on the media, deriding these un-Canadian parents, I was almost caught up in the jingoistic mentality of the moment! How dare these people disrespect our soldiers and veterans, like the federal government continues to do through funding cuts and compensation reductions. How dare these handful of parents exercise their rights in a free, democratic society!

Oh, wait a second, that’s right. We live in a free, democratic society that allows people with different points of view and religious beliefs to exercise those rights and beliefs, so long as it doesn’t promote hatred, or hurt others.

I don’t think misplaced, righteous indignation of the ignorant counts.

First off, we are talking about a very small number of parents, probably not even note-worthy, save for the eager journalist who was bored and a provincial Premier who wants to earn brownie points. Some may choose to opt-out for religious reasons, after all, there are a few Christian prayers during the ceremonies. If I remember, last year, there were also some Jewish and Native Canadian prayers said as well. Sadly, war doesn’t discriminate. All religions can be affected. The parents that pulled their kids out may not have thought about that. Remembrance Day isn’t about a specific religion. It’s about remembering the horrors of war, praising those that survived, mourning those that didn’t.

Secondly, Edmonton school-board spokeswoman Jane Sterling stated that it’s not always about religion. “We had a mom last year or the year before ask that her son not be part of it because his dad had just been killed in Afghanistan. She really felt strongly that when they do observe Remembrance Day that he is with his family.” So who would call that boy and his family unpatriotic? C’mon, I dare ya. He didn’t attend Remembrance Day ceremonies! Where was the story about his lack of support for the veterans? What about other families who have lost a loved one just before November 11th? Ok, I’m facetious, but my point is, everyone has reasons.   

Finally, there’s something that most people critical of these parents have forgotten, it’s that whole we-live-in-a-democracy thing. Yes, those soldiers and veterans we honor each and every November 11th fought and died for our freedom. They fought and died for a nation where everyone would have equal rights, that people wouldn’t be oppressed, that we would have the opportunity to choose. These are just a few of the things we take for granted everyday. These are just some of the reasons teenagers, the same age as my oldest nephew and niece, went overseas, went into hell, killed others, and saw new-found friends die bloody, brutal, horrible deaths. They gave everything. So many were lost, never to come back. Those that did were never the same. They did it to stop a madman from ruling Europe. Later, more soldiers went to other places to fight for similar reasons and ideals. They didn’t always like it. I’m sure many hated it. But the best of them knew it wasn’t about what they wanted. It was for others. To fight, to protect, to help bring freedom and justice and all those things we forget the importance of. If they could show that kind of courage, strength, and compassion, then maybe we can show a bit as well towards those who we disagree with.  
It is easy to be negative and berate these parents and kids.
It is simple to stand on a soap-box once a year and voice our love and patriotism for our veterans, then forget about them the next day.
It is political for a Premier to condemn the quiet act that goes against the societal norms to earn new voters.
It is sad when people are intolerant and ignorant in a country as great as this.

Here’s the article I referred to. Have a read. Global Edmonton | Redford decries Remembrance Day opt-out; school board say it’s the law


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