“Lest We Forget” is a common saying heard throughout the month of November in Canada. But do you really understand what it means? The phrase comes from Rudyard Kipling’s 1897 poem Recessional; it cautions against forgetting the people who have died in war, and the reasons they were fighting in the first place. Along with the poppy, this slogan is a symbol of Remembrance Day.
Remembrance Day is not a regular holiday; it is not a day off school full of family fun. Remembrance Day is an important day of the year where we pay tribute to the courageous men and women who have served, and continue to serve, our country during times of both war and peace. Remembrance Day is observed by many countries worldwide; the first Remembrance Day was in 1919 to remember fallen service members of the First World War.
Why do we remember today? Despite the comfortable lives we live here in Canada, the world has not always been such a peaceful place—and there are still many areas of the world today that are at war. We often take for granted our Canadian values and institutions: our right to education and freedom of cultural, religious, and political affiliation. People all over the world are still fighting for these same rights and freedoms that are enjoyed by Canadians
At RMS, staff and students hold an assembly every November 11. There are skits that recreate life during wartime, songs of peace, and a Laying of the Wreaths ceremony. We take a moment of silence at 11 a.m.—the time that the fighting of the First World War officially ended—to acknowledge the bravery and sacrifice of Canadian soldiers and their hard work to achieve peace. In class, even our youngest students learn about the significance of the poppy and Remembrance Day.
2015 is a very significant year for remembrance ceremonies. It marks 65th anniversary of the start of the Korean War, the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, and the 101st anniversary of the beginning of the First World War. It also commemorates the 100th anniversary of the writing of the iconic poem In Flanders Fields by Canadian John McCrae.
Last year, a Bill was put forward in the House of Commons by NDP MP Dan Harris to declare Remembrance Day a national statutory holiday, giving it the same status as Canada Day. Currently, Remembrance Day is a statutory provincial holiday in all but Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and the Northwest Territories. As of November 5, 2014, the Bill has passed the First Reading and will now be passed on to a Second Reading and a Standing Committee for further debate.
Will making November 11 a public holiday diminish the importance of this day of remembrance? Currently, schools and workplaces across the country hold ceremonies and continue to teach the importance of remembrance, whether or not it is a day off. Should this Bill be passed, veterans and service members will continue to be honoured each and every November at RMS.
For more information and resources on Remembrance Day, please visit Veterans’ Affairs Canada.