I stood with my hat over my heart as the military band played O’Canada at the November 11th Memorial in Montreal at downtown Place du Canada. Anne stood at my side with her arm in a sling.
She had dislocated her shoulder in a horse related accident on Halloween Eve. She stood there in pain. But a “little” pain was not about to keep Anne from showing her respect and gratitude.
It was a picture perfect beautiful day. There was plenty of sun. Not much wind. And the temperature was well above freezing. All of which is not the norm for November 11 in Montreal.
Usually, the wind is howling. There is moisture in the air. And the dampness gets right into your bones. But not this November 11, 2007. As I wrote in the preceding paragraph: it was a picture perfect November day.
SO WHERE WERE THE PEOPLE?
Why were there fewer spectators than there was a combination of veterans, soldiers, cadets, RCMP, Montreal police, firemen and wreath layers?
The Santa Clause parade turns out hundreds of thousands of Montrealers regardless the weather. Same for the St Patrick’s Day parade. Ditto for the ethnocentric Quebecois St Jean Baptist parade.
It galls me that our young people know so very little about our Canadian history, much less the sacrifices made by our millions of war heroes who went overseas to fight the foes of freedom.
It bothers me even more, that people my age (57), who are old enough to remember Canada’s proud military contributions through our parents don’t have the decency to show up and stand in silence for a few moments to remember and pay tribute to the men and women who gave so much so we can be free and safe.
Do these people who show no regard for the price so many have paid for our rights, not realize that Canada is at war? That Canadian soldiers are in harm’s way, and are targeted for death everyday?
Do they not see the signs on the 401, for the heroes who are brought back to Canada for burial who die fighting an enemy so vile, that if we don’t beat them where they live, we will eventually have to beat them where we live?
As the band was playing O’Canada, a French-speaking woman who was standing just behind Anne and myself was busy chatting on her cell phone. I turned around and gave her a dirty look. She in turn gave me a look, as if to say: mind your own business.
She came to Place du Canada on Remembrance Day to disrespect our national anthem, our country and the men and women who many years ago were in harm’s way, and the men and women who are today in harm’s way.
The fact that she was speaking in French was quite remarkable, since she was the only person there who I heard speaking French. All the others who I heard speaking before and after (not during) the commemorations spoke English.
I have to assume no one sent the memo out to the 6 million Quebecois that soldiers of the French speaking Royal 22nd Regiment (the Vandoos) are now doing battle everyday in Afghanistan. Otherwise, I imagine more French speakers than just this exceptionally rude French-speaking woman would have been there to show their respect and gratitude.
I don’t know if Quebec still spends the week of Remembrance Day celebrating “Quebec Citizenship Week”? If they do? Good on them. The sooner it becomes a reality, the better it will be for all concerned.
As for the sparseness in attendance; this is a disgrace no matter what language one speaks. To forget those who fought for freedom is rudeness beyond description, and ignorance that will be our undoing.
Anne and I stood behind two young men and their girlfriends, not much out of their teen years. The men wore Canada’s military dress uniforms. Upon their chests were Afghanistan service medals.
I felt humbled just to be around them. We, the people of Canada owe them a depth of appreciation and gratitude for their sacrifice and bravery that we can never repay. The very least we can do is to show up and say thank you.
It’s a tragedy that there are so few people who feel the same.
As always, I thank you for your reading Galganov Dot Com, and for your support. Please spread the word.
Best regards . . . Howard Galganov