There have been a number of stories in the news recently that have left me feeling unsettled about the role of Remembrance Day in our country. There was the infamous poppy thief and the cenotaph that was recently vandalized in Toronto. There was the story about the pub crawl in Saint John, which invited students to “to remember the brave men and women that fought for our country” by visiting 11 bars in 11 hours. And right now, crews in New Brunswick are dismantling Mount Allison’s Memorial Library, which was built as a tribute to the students who served and died in the First World War.
It’s hard to say if these stories indicate a broader trend that Canadians are starting to forget the significance of Remembrance Day. In fact, I’m comforted by the response of many ordinary Canadians who are outraged by these abuses and misuses of Remembrance Day.
Whether or not people agree with Canada’s current military policies, this should be a time to remember the individuals who gave up their homes, families and, in many cases, lives for something they believed in. To honour their memory, the best thing we can do is become active participants in Remembrance Day events. Remembrance can take on many forms, so I’ve created a list of the different ways you can spend this November 11th.
Attend a Remembrance Day ceremony
Every community holds a Remembrance Day ceremony and many hold more than one. Ceremonies often take place at a local cenotaph, cemetery, government building, legion, or military base.Veterans Affairs Canada has put together a comprehensive list of Remembrance Day activities, so you can easily find one in your community. You can also consult this interactive map.
Visit a local museum
Community museums or heritage organizations often offer special programming around Remembrance Day. They might have a special exhibit, tour, lecture, speaker, or film screening. Check our calendar events to see what’s going on in your community.
Watch the National Remembrance Day Ceremony on television
Every year, Canada hosts the National Remembrance Day Ceremony from Ottawa. You can watch the ceremony live through all major television broadcasters. You can find more information, including a detailed schedule of events, from the Royal Canadian Legion.
Learn through an online exhibit
Virtual exhibits are a great way to explore a subject in depth and there are a lot of great ones to choose from:
The Canadian War Museum. Canada's national war museum has a number of online exhibits to explore.
Library and Archives Canada. Likewise, Library and Archives Canada has over a dozen virtual exhibits relating to the theme of Military and Peacekeeping.
McCord Museum. The McCord Museum offers a number of “web tours,” which allow you to watch a short presentation on a topic and collection, or browse through the items yourself. For example, check out “Wanted! 500,000 Canadians for WWI,” or “World War II Through Cartoons.”
Find many more virtual exhibits at the Virtual Museum of Canada or Canadian Archival Information Network websites.
Watch a film
It should be easy to find a documentary or film on television, or you can check out the National Film Board’s collection. Established in 1939 to help garner support for WWII, the NFB has a large collection of both archival films and more recent documentaries. You can narrow your search by topic, and find films related to different conflicts and themes in Canada’s military history.
Hear from a veteran
There are a number of oral history projects underway that share and preserve the knowledge of our veterans. To hear our veteran's stories, you can visit The Memory Project or Veterans Affairs Canada. Many of these initiatives are also occurring at a community level, so be sure to check with your local museum or archive, as well.
Take the Remembrance Challenge
In keeping with the times, Veterans Affairs Canada has brought Remembrance Day into the digital world. Visit their website to create a mashup, scrapbook, or decorate your social media page to show your friends that you remember.
As always, feel free to leave us a comment to tell us what you'll be doing, or if you have an activity to add to the list.