Opinion » Editorial

Is Remembrance Day still meaningful?



For many around the world, Remembrance Day is a day to honour those recently lost, as well as those who gave their lives in the course of historical conflict.

For those recently bereaved, the pain of death is still raw, the questions still unanswered, the meaning of the death unfathomable.

A day of memory, shared by those who have experienced the same thing, or as a way to honour those lost, brings comfort.

It is the right thing to do whether one believes in the value of armed combat or not. Few can look back on the great wars, which caused suffering to millions, and imagine that "fighting back" was not an option.

But for decades following World War II, the wars Canadians fought in had, as part of their central tenet, the idea that we were trying to bring peace. Today, this is still the case.

With 9/11 perception changed again. War, in the form of terrorism, had come to the shores of the North American continent. This left a deep and abiding fear in some.

But for millions war is still a far-off experience in both time and space, and somehow pinning on a poppy — made popular by Canadian John McCrae's poem, "In Flanders Fields," written after World War I — seems a very small gesture.

It jogs our thoughts every November — and while that has been a powerful force, perhaps we should try and remember for more than just a few weeks each year.

After all the suffering of those still impacted by conflict and war is not felt only in November.

We know that for those who return from fighting in a conflict the war is not over.

For some it never ends.

In the past year, Canadians were shocked to learn that, for example, the federal government only contributed $3,600 toward the funerals of destitute ex-soldiers out of its Last Post Fund, a figure that is substantially lower than what some social services departments pay for the burial of the homeless and those on welfare. The Globe and Mail reports that: "The government was put in an embarrassing position last year when it was revealed that the fund had rejected 67 per cent of the requests put before it in the previous five years.

"The last federal budget increased the amount of money available for funeral expenses, but did not loosen the eligibility criteria, which has not been revised in decades.

"The rules essentially exclude many modern-day soldiers who served in the Cold War and Afghanistan and impose a means test that says a qualifying veteran's annual income must have been less than $12,010 per year."

In June we learned that Veterans Affairs plans to cut at least 300 jobs as part of an overhaul going on until 2015.

At the same time as the cuts were in the news, an Afghan vet in Halifax, N.S., called a press conference to share how he couldn't get the help he needed from the government.

"It's been six or seven years since my accident ... but I'm no further ahead today, treatment and recovery-wise, than when I first got off that plane," Cpl. Shane Jones is reported as saying by the Ottawa Citizen.

He suffered a skull fracture, swollen brain and back injuries when the light armoured vehicle he was in rolled over in an attempted suicide bombing, killing one of the men in his vehicle. Jones wants the federal government to stop planned cutbacks at Veterans Affairs and to beef up services for injured vets.

The Conservatives are also trying to overturn a recent B.C. Supreme Court decision, which gave the go-ahead to a class action lawsuit by Afghan vets who argue the government's new lump-sum payment for disabilities violates their Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

This, from a government that purports to value the service of our veterans.

Remembrance Day is still meaningful in so many ways to so many people.

On Nov.11, and every day, let's hope our government remembers that.


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