Remembrance Day – a day to reflect on both war and peace

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Pontiac Perspective by Peter Gauthier


Pontiac Perspective by Peter Gauthier

Remembrance Day (November 11) marks the occasion when Canadians acknowledge the contribution our armed forces have made, and are making, in the protection and preservation of our values, hopes, and country. When recalling the many times Canada’s forces have been engaged in conflict, we think of the foreign wars recorded in our history books. The first significant international engagement for Canadians was the South African (Boer) War of 1899 – 1902. But we remember the great and terrible wars of the twentieth century – the First World War, the Second World War and the Korean War where Canadian forces entered the history books in a noticeable and memorable way.
The demands in these wars were felt and shared by all Canadians. Those not on the front lines were involved in support and supply activities. Everyone felt engaged and all Canadians contributed in some way to the war effort. There were states and leaders that threatened the peace and security of other states; Canadian armed forces were engaged in full military combat. 
But in 1956 this changed. In response to the conflict known as the Suez Crisis between Egypt and Israel (with involvement from France and Great Britain), Canada proposed and led a United Nations peacekeeping force. From this event to the present, Canadian armed forces have been involved in efforts at maintaining peace, reducing conflict and supporting humanitarian efforts to bring relief to beleaguered peoples. This new focus on peace and containment of hostilities has seen Canadian forces deployed in Afghanistan, the Balkans, Cambodia, Congo, Cyprus, Haiti, Rwanda, Somalia and various Middle East locations. 
These peacekeeping efforts have been recognized internationally. In 1957, Lester Pearson was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace as an acknowledgement of his efforts in bringing peace to the Suez. In 1988, the United Nations Peacekeeping forces were awarded the medal as recognition of work in providing solutions to aggression and conflict in various locations.
Today, Remembrance Day is more than just a day to honour the brave and dedicated members of our armed forces; it’s also a day to remember the efforts of our defense forces to establish and maintain a more peaceful, open and prosperous world. Our remembrance is now an act of hope and trust; that the past sacrifices of our armed forces have not been in vain. We honour especially those who have given their lives in conflicts.
We must not forget these past events, but we must think of working toward a better future; our remembrance must be one of involvement. This is the message and spirit of Remembrance Day.