Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Symbols of Canada - Part 6 - War and Peace

One of the most powerful symbols of Canada throughout history and into modern day is our presence in the world, particularly in places where there is conflict.  We are not the cause of the conflict; in fact, we are generally recognized for our extremely peaceful natures, however, we have a strong tradition of placing ourselves in danger to preserve the rights, privileges and freedoms of other nations.

Symbol #6 - War and Peace

Throughout history, we have been quick to support peacekeeping missions and to step into war to support others.  I am not a fierce or violent man.  I have never felt equal to combat, or overt conflict.  However, I recognize, respect and honour the proud history of our nation at war to bring peace.

While visiting Ottawa, across the street from my hotel was the war memorial.  Similar to my preconceptions about the Parliament, I had pictured a monument far from the bustle of a busy city.  I pictured a quiet and peaceful location, where one could visit to gather one's thoughts, reflect on the noble sacrifices of the distant and recent past, as well as that of the current time.  Instead, I found a small square off a crazily busy street, from which rose a picturesque statue, depicting the contributions of our military through the 2 World Wars, the losses that occurred and the greater freedoms and benefits that resulted.  However, when I entered the square, I felt a peace and quiet settle over me.  Coloured maple leaves moved slowly around the area, blown by a light wind.  I could see the monument to the Unknown Soldier and the larger monument.

I reflected on the contributions of my ancestors, who, thankfully came through the war relatively unscathed.  I felt like I became more a part of Canada than I had been before, simply by being there.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
When visiting the Parliament Building, we took some time to visit the memorial chapel/chamber in the building that documents the various actions and battles where Canada played a part, in the many different world conflicts that have taken place over the years.  On one wall, inscribed in marble, was a famous poem written by a great Canadian peacekeeper, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, during the First World War.  As a child I recall hearing and reading this moving piece of prose, which tore my young heart (and still does) and cemented in my mind the deep sacrifices of our nation.

"In Flanders Fields" - Written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, on May 3, 1915, following the 2nd Battle of Ypres

"In Flanders fields the poppies blow
      Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
   Loved and were loved, and now we lie
         In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
   If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
         In Flanders fields.

Over the years, many brave Canadians have left their homes and their families to go into dreadful situations to bring a better, more peaceful world into being.  I am grateful to be a fortunate beneficiary of that rich history, which repeats each year around the world.  I am particularly grateful for the opportunity that I had to experience one of the most poignant symbols of Canada.  That of War and Peace.

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