Friday, November 11, 2005


I am Canadian. I wear the poppy. In Canada November 11 is perhaps the second most important national commemoration of all. It is Remembrance Day, the anniversary of the end of the First World War. At 11 a.m. local time, in ceremonies across the country in communities big and small a bugler will blow the Last Post signifying the beginning of two minutes of silence. Despite the best efforts of veterans groups such as the Royal Canadian Legion, stores will be open, but in many if not most of them the two minutes of silence will also be marked. On this day we commemorate the dead in Canada's wars and peace keeping missions and the veterans who survived.

South Africa - 1899-1902: 244 dead
World War I - 1914-1918: 60,661 dead
World War II - 1939-1945: 42,042 dead
Korea - 1950-1953: 312 dead
Gulf War - 1991: No dead
Afghanistan - 2001-present: 4 dead
Peacekeeping missions from Suez in 1956 through the Congo, Cyprus, Croatia, Bosnia, Haiti and Rwanda.

Based on the Statistics Canada estimate of the Canadian population in 1914 (7,879,000), the number of dead during World War I represents slightly under 1% of the total population of the country and a significantly higher percentage of males between the ages of 18 and 50. It was a Canadian, Colonel John McCrae of the Canadian Medical Corps who wrote the most famous poem about the First World War.

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.

I am Canadian. I wear the poppy, and I wear it with pride and considerable emotion.

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