Straight Talk
SIMON KENT - Canadians want Remembrance Day to have bigger role

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is seen with a poppy at the National War Monument in Ottawa.

Credits: QMI AGENCY

SIMON KENT | QMI AGENCY

Get ready for the sound of silence.

The world will pause to remember the fallen at 11 a.m. Sunday and the hushed two minutes that follow will be heard all over Canada.

As it should be and always has been.

If you find this year’s traditional Remembrance Day commemorations a little more respectful and somehow more meaningful than before, you’re in good company.

Latest research shows more Canadians than ever want Remembrance Day to play a major part in our lives out of respect for the fallen in all wars. They are also doing something about it.

Three in 10 Canadians say they will attend a Remembrance Day ceremony in 2012 (up eight points from 2010) and 80% of Canadians say they will observe two minutes of silence at 11 a.m. (up five points from 2010).

These figures come from the Historica-Dominion Institute, Canada’s largest independent historical society. It has a specific interest in developing broad community knowledge of our shared heritage and it finds something special happening at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

“We’re seeing engagement in Remembrance Day growing steadily in recent years,” Institute president Anthony Wilson-Smith said. “Canadians are making clear their awareness and appreciation of the service and sacrifices our veterans have made and continue to make on behalf of our country.”

So, why are Canadians so prepared to stop and honour those who made the supreme sacrifice in war?

Perhaps having our men and women serving in Afghanistan for the past decade holds a clue.

Historica-Dominion research reveals 27% of Canadians say they personally know someone who served in Afghanistan.

This heightened awareness may also explain why 63% of those surveyed agree Canada does not do enough to honour its veterans; three quarters agree (32% strongly and 44% somewhat) that Canada should replicate the Vietnam Wall in Washington to honour our personnel who have died in modern conflicts, up to and including Afghanistan.

Dave Gordon, executive-director of the Royal Canadian Legion Ontario Command, finds merit in the wall proposal — although he concedes that might be some way off yet.

In the shorter term, he says, the fact more Canadians want to stop for two minutes and reflect is much more encouraging.

“It shows that across all age groups there is a huge amount of community honour ready to be bestowed on our veterans, no matter what conflict they served in,” Gordon said.

“Canadians realize the sacrifices made by the fallen. They also know that the loved ones who are left behind have a huge personal burden to carry.

“When we stop as a nation to remember then we also honour those who are left to mourn the dead. It shows we are together as a sharing community no matter what our background or race or creed.

“We are Canadians.”

While the two-minute silence on Remembrance Day is a tradition that dates back to the First World War, the bond of shared suffering that war delivers might be better served with a longer time to reflect.

That shows in the survey response.

With respect to how we honour veterans, 85% of Canadians agree (57% strongly, 27% somewhat) that Remembrance Day should be a statutory holiday across Canada.

A majority (57%) feels a statutory holiday would increase the day’s significance because Canadians would have more time to mark it.

At the other end of the scale, 16% feel it would lessen the day’s significance because people would take the opportunity to shop or vacation.

Either way, Gordon sees nothing but positives emerging from Sunday’s community observances.

“The simple fact that Remembrance Day has lived as long as it has around the world should be applauded.

“Maybe one day there will be an end to all wars and suffering caused by them. That would be the greatest triumph of all,” he said.

On behalf of the Historica-Dominion Institute, Ipsos Reid polled a sample of 1,009 Canadians from across the country for their attitudes towards Remembrance Day. Findings include:

  • 8 in 10 (82%) of Canadians say they will wear a poppy in the lead-up to Remembrance Day.
  • 90% of 55+ respondents say they would wear a poppy compared with 71% of 18-34-year-old respondents.
  • Nearly three quarters (72%) of Canadians agree the War of 1812 should be commemorated on Remembrance Day.
  • 55% of Canadians agree other countries do more to honour their veterans than Canada.
  • 72% of Canadians agree (21% strongly, 50% somewhat) the Government of Canada should plan 60th anniversary commemorations to honour the Korean War, while 28% disagree (6% strongly, 22% somewhat).

(Poll is accurate to within +/- 3.5 percentage points of the Canadian population.)

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