Honouring Canadian Veterans
By: Elena Kingsbury, FSWC Senior Educator
Each November, we are reminded of the importance of honouring veterans and recognizing the valour of those who have sacrificed their safety, freedom, and, in some cases, life itself, to protect Canada and the ideals our nation was built upon.
Remembrance Day, and the entire month of November, present an opportunity to celebrate heroism, and to recognize the humanity of veterans who often have difficulty reconciling their pre-and post-war lives. Many suffer the burden of mental and physical trauma they carry with them from the battlefield. The process of re-entering civilian life can be difficult and isolating. The best way we can honour the courage and sacrifices of our veterans, beyond passing the torch of remembrance, is to take proactive steps to strengthen community support networks and veteran-oriented services, like the Royal Canadian Legion.
This November, we also encourage educators to highlight lesser-known stories from veteran communities that have often been marginalized in broader narratives around Canadian military service - in particular, racialized veterans.
Did you know, for instance, that Black Canadians have been serving since long before Confederation in 1867? During the American Revolutionary War, American slaves had been offered freedom and land if they agreed to fight with the British. Thousands seized this opportunity to build a new life in British North America, moving north permanently with their families after 1780. In a real sense, Black loyalists were fighting for their own freedom.
First Nations soldiers serving during the Second World War made a connection between democratic freedoms and their service, with leaders arguing that loyalty demonstrated through military service was evidence that Indigenous soldiers deserved the same civil rights as white Canadians.
As troubling as this debate was, it is important for us to acknowledge the complexities of Canada’s history and to learn from our past so that we can create a more peaceful and equitable future for all.
Jewish Canadian service in the Second World War: https://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/people-and-stories/jewish-canadian-service
Black Canadians in uniform: https://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/people-and-stories/black-canadians
Indigenous veterans: https://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/people-and-stories/indigenous-veterans