Have we forgotten about Remembrance Day?
Controversy around Remembrance Day is nothing new for Canadians. In this blog post I have spilled out my thoughts on the 2021 Remembrance Day. An opinion which people are free to disagree with.
Remembrance Day occurs on the 11th day of the 11th month every year. At 1100hrs Canadians are supposed to pause to remember the sacrifices that Canadian Armed Forces members made in two World Wars, Peacekeeping Operations, the Korean War and the Gulf Wars. Many Canadians have family who served and continue to serve.
The Royal Canadian Legion, an Organization formed to provide assistance and Comradeship for Veterans and their families has a particular role to play. They hold domain over the Poppy Campaign and the act of Remembrance, which are the core tenants of the Organization's mission. The Legion works with Government to advocate for Veterans (Some believe the RCL is also complicit in promoting poor Government policy).
The Poppy campaign is a donation based campaign that the Royal Canadian Legion oversees in Canada. The Dominion President provides a Poppy to the Governor General usually the last week of October. Once the GG accepts and wears the Poppy, the campaign officially kicks off. This campaign goes until Remembrance Day. Money collected is placed in trust to be used to assist Veterans. Canadians will probably see a Legion Member, a volunteer or a Cadet providing poppies for donation at most local stores.
Disclaimer 1: This blog post is not meant to be a historical record of past grievances so it will not encompass all situations nor will it necessarily be in historical order.
Disclaimer 2: The Legion has had controversy for quite awhile, this article is not meant to be a rehash of the sins of Legion per say, however the problems with the Legion spill out into Remembrance Day in a direct and national sense and there are specific circumstances that have led us to where we are at today.
Remembrance Day suffers from the distance of time. The further away WW1, WW2, Korea and even Afghanistan fall back in time the harder it is for every day Canadians to relate to them. As time goes on these wars also suffer from celebrity culture. Video Games, blockbuster movies, comic books and more will take these real conflicts and add a spin to them and quite often take artistic liberties. The horrors of conflict and war effect us less and less as we watch evil people fall bloodless to the ground in the hundreds while valiant hero's push on with a wink and smile. Our North American culture has been so removed from war and conflict for so long we have forgotten that war and conflict have been the baseline since the dawn of humanity.
The White Poppy (and its many variants) has been a controversy for some time. Some organizations have determined that the red poppy is a celebration of war and that the civilian casualties of war have been forgotten. Thus the white poppy campaign took off. Most of these campaigns are scams and people are scammed out of money. These scams continue to occur even to this day.
Associate and Affiliate membership. One of the biggest Legion controversies was when the Legion began to experience declining numbers due to a lack of Veteran membership. Women were also not allowed to be Legion members and had to be part of the "Ladies Auxiliary". Many women were not even allowed in the Legion Halls, they were relegated to kitchen duties and administrative duties. Women eventually were allowed to be Legion members. Eventually Associate membership was expanded to immediate family and then extended family. Seeing that they were still suffering from low numbers they eventually expanded membership to the public known as affiliate non-voting members, however the Legion had already become an organization that was known to be closed off to the public (some Legions are still like this). Eventually voting rights were extended to Affiliate voters as well and the definitions of membership category began to be more and more relaxed.
Why is this important? With less and less military personal being involved in the Legion, the protocols have become looser and looser. Many Legion members attempting to set up a Remembrance Day ceremony have not served a day in the CAF. They do not understand the customs, the rank structure, the delegation of duties and power, the drill nor the military culture. I remember one year at one of the Legions, they made no contact at all with the local Reservist Unit, the people they are supposed to support! Many Legions claim to be supportive of Veterans but they have a serious problem with gatekeeping and wagon circling. If you see the trademark grey pants and blue jacket, there is a good chance they never did a day of military service. This is confusing to the public since the Legion also has it's own medals system and many have received civilian honors which gives the impression to the public that they have military service.
Stolen Valor in the Public and the Legion has also become a common issue. Although it was known for quite some time within military circles about Stolen Valor. It wasn't until 2014 with the famous case of Frank Gervais that the public became aware of the extent of stolen valor. This led to the creation of Stolen Valor Canada (SVC) who made it their mandate to find out and expose fakers. As the numbers racked up and charged began to get filed, many Legions had to grapple with the fact that they had been monetarily supporting fakers for years. Some Legions didn't know what to do about fakers since the Legion's rules and application of rules are difficult to follow along with the inability of the Legion to confirm military service due to the Privacy Act. Anyone with military service could spot Frank as a faker and I am sure that people had questioned previously but it was considered bad manners to question someone's service. Legion members, some who have gotten free trips to Vimy amongst other privileges were being exposed as never having a day in the service. The damage that this has done to the CAF, the public’s perception and the Legion has never been properly calculated, however I believe that it has played a role in the degradation of Remembrance Day.
Some Legions have also had issues with racism, sexism and there were a few that also were found to have ties to Outlaw Motorcycle Groups (OMG’s). 2019 the dam on this broke with the expose on the group in Alberta known as the Soldiers of Odin (SOO). Suddenly another hush subject of the Legion was cast into the forefront. Many people were threatening to boycott Remembrance Day Parades in Alberta and Dominion Command, in a rare circumstance had to publically intervene.
However this is not new, the Legion has been known for quite some time to be a white centered organization. Dominion Command has been trying hard to showcase that they are an inclusive and welcoming Organization. However if you look at the Legion magazine photo section it still appears to continue to be a white centered organization. Indigenous Veterans were not supported for quite some time and their service was not recognized the same as others which is why November 8th was brought in to specifically remember the sacrifices that Indigenous Veterans have made for this Country.
There are other controversies that I think have contributed to this but I think I have highlighted some of the key ones. Other ones include the controversy around the Veteran Charter, Dominion Command taking a majority of the dues, the pandering to politicians, old Veterans not supporting younger Veterans, Gatekeeping and Protectionism.
Since the Pandemic has hit all of the non-profit and volunteer sectors in Canada have been devastated. The vast majority of these organizations have been suffering for years and these restrictions have been the nail in the coffin for some. The Legion has been one of those organizations that has suffered. Many small Branches will not recover from this and will have to retire their colors for good. Without the Legion in the public eye the support has fallen back, many people did not renew membership and it has led to a campaign to try to bring in CAF members and former Cadets but I am unsure of how successful they will be.
The vaccine mandate has also been a controversial topic. Veterans not being permitted into the Legion unless they are vaccinated. The threat risk assessment in which most Legion members are at the highest risk. People have been using war memorial sites for protests saying that our Vets have died for freedom not restrictions. 2020 Remembrance Day was low key and many branches attempted to stream a small virtual ceremony. Some were successful however, the Legion as an organization has struggled with technology adaptation due to the aged base of membership who are not interested.
It is no secret that Veterans have been the scapegoat for quite some time by several political parties. Politicians show up for the horse and pony show then slash budgets. Our own Prime Minister was quoted as saying that Veterans were asking for more then his Government was able to give. The budget and procurement for the CAF is a topic for an entire other blog post. The Legion is not supposed to be political however they have been accused of cozying up to whatever Government is in power to curry favor, often to the determent of the CAF and Veterans. The Legion was formed to give Veterans a voice and many feel that the Legion should be pushing back. The issues plaguing the CAF internally have also been the subject of contention as well. In my opinion neither party really cares about the CAF or Veterans all that much.
2021 Remembrance Day
All of this background information have led to Remembrance Day 2021. A day filled with controversy. Although some of it is simply online drama, I feel this year that there was a significant shift in mentality. November 8th is a Legion and Canada recognized day of remembrance for Indigenous Veterans. I found that there were many people online and even offline complaining that we should celebrate Nov 11 only. I had noticed that many on the right side of the Political spectrum seemed upset. I had indicated that the Government and the Legion support this day. I also noticed that it appeared that very few people were actually wearing poppies this year. I wasn’t the only one. Some independent journalists noticed a significant lack of poppy wearing this year. There didn’t appear to much media coverage either. It appeared to be an afterthought.
Then Remembrance Day came and along with it the controversy. The Prime Minister was noticeably late for the ceremony. He is supposed to be present to greet the Governor General and he arrived after the bells had started ringing. It would not have mattered I guess since the Governor General was late. She arrived after the cannons had sounded and during the two minutes of silence. In what was a fascinating abandonment of tradition, they interrupted the two minutes of silence to announce the arrival of the Governor General.
Veterans Affairs would later claim that the PM and GG were held up due to a security incident, yet we have still not heard much about this incident. If it was so serious why did they not evacuate the entire event? It sounded like a convenient excuse. The PM and GG should be there early like everyone else was.
Then the picture came out showing green spray paint that had been sprayed onto a war memorial that said “The real hero’s are the vaccinated.” It is a disgusting image but I was left wondering if it was a false flag, a Smollett moment. A troll looking for attention or to create issues or controversy only because I could not fathom someone actually writing something like that seriously. However I could be off base, this pandemic has brought out the wierdos as no other event in human history has. Again the focus was taken off the Veterans and put back onto current political debate.
Then came the most puke inducing moment of the day. During an impromptu Remembrance Day event (since BC technically forbids these gatherings) a lady got up with a microphone and speaker and proceeded to deliver a speech about Government restrictions and vaccine mandates. One Veteran came up and told her that it was not the time or place and he is right. Nov 11th at 1100hrs is not time for your speech, do it later on, do it before the ceremony but it took the moment away from Veterans and made it about the current political debate. With that I got to see all sorts of online bickering from people saying that Vets didn’t die for mandates and that vets were denied access to their Legion’s over mandates. It was disgusting and I am ashamed that people cannot condone this. That lady giving the speech should have read the room with everyone walking away from her. It wasn’t about Veterans, it was about her and her cause.
Then the video surfaced of the restaurant denying the Veteran service without his vaccine passport. The restaurant is not going to risk closing for good and having all its staff out of work, re-direct your anger to where it belongs, the Governments who put people in these impossible situations. Yelling and getting mad at some lady making $10 an hour isn’t going to bring people to your side. It isn’t helping. You look like an asshole. The same with Vets who are not vaccinated that cannot go to their local Legion. The Legion still has rules that all must follow even Vets and they are not going to risk a fine and closing down by subverting Government restrictions. It’s more friendly fire that isn’t helping but further dividing. I do not agree with the mandates but united non-compliance isn't going to happen.
Finally in a move I thought I would never have seen in my life, I was defending O’Toole on his Twitter account. I get it; many Conservatives do not like O’toole but again more friendly fire incidents here. O Toole went to a local Remembrance Day event wearing his medals and posted it on twitter. People were attacking him and his service, on Remembrance Day. Hate the man all you want, respect the service. I even had to explain to people that he is a Veteran. I got attacked by people saying that he left the military when Afghanistan started. So? The Canadian Military is a Voluntary Service military, people leave all the time when they choose. People were whining that he stayed in long enough to get his C.D and get out…so? Plenty of CAF members do that. People were then complaining that he got more out of the military then he gave them… I seriously doubt it. Who cares if the military paid for his education, it’s a program open to all Canadians if they choose. So yes on Remembrance Day O’toole gets to wear his C.D and his Queens Diamond Jubilee medal, go to a parade, and march in it. He earned that right by putting time in service. I even had someone trying to claim he did Stolen Valor, I see no evidence he ever did that. The excuses were there but lacked any sort of justification.
Remembrance Day in 2021 continues to showcase the cultural decline of Western Society. Everyone is so riled up that on a day dedicated to Remembering Veterans so many people had to make it about them. On the other hand we have a society that is so apathetic to sacrifice that they won’t even wear a poppy or reflect on one of the few culturally significant days that could bring all Canadians together.
Individuals do not get all the blame. The Institutions that are supposed to ensure that people remember have forgotten their mandates and their mission statements. They have cozied up to the Political elites and forgot their spine somewhere along the way. They refuse to modernize and innovate and are in some cases openly hostile to younger Vets and people wanting to make a difference.
The Pandemic has only accelerated the process. It has made every day people so hostile towards each other. We have to realize that united non-compliance isn't going to happen. There is no "Just say no" movement. I don't offer any solution to the pandemic restrictions however my inclination is that yelling at civilians or taking your protest to Remembrance Day ceremonies won't help.
Some people need to be the adults and start putting things back into place before we lose the Remembrance Day tradition for good.
In probably my most controversial upcoming episode. I will be interviewing Daryl Cooper who ran for the Sask Party. He wasn't well known outside of Saska…