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Letters Nov. 16: Honouring a soldier's grave; remembering the victims of war

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Lloyd Mildon at the cenotaph in Ross Bay Cemetery. Letter-writers have expressed their feelings over Remembrance Day ceremonies and the victims of war on all sides. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

A painted stone on a grave lifts a son’s spirit

Last week I was incensed to read and hear about the disturbances caused by wacko anti-vaxxers at solemn Remembrance Day observances at several B.C. cenotaphs.

My first impulse was to send a strong message to the federal government pleading for the institution of severe penalties for such disruptions.

Due to a recent physical, but not permanent impediment, I was not able to visit my father’s grave in the soldier’s plot at Royal Oak Burial Park until Sunday.

The heavy rain was adding to my lowish spirit, but when I stepped up to my father’s headstone with a poppy in hand to belatedly place on his name, I was absolutely overwhelmed when I discovered a fist-sized blue-painted stone that also had a red poppy painted on it.

I carefully placed the stone on the edge of my poppy to keep it secured. My anger at the anti-vaxxers has subsided a little, knowing that in a great many of our youth there lives the spirit of thankfulness for what the young men and women of generations before them endured to give all of us alive today, the many benefits that are now often taken for granted.

My special thanks to the student who created and placed that lovely stone on my dad’s grave. When he was in France in the First World War, just over 100 years ago, and again in the army in the Second World War, he would never have imagined such a kind and thoughtful act.

David Smith
Victoria

Hoping for a future when guns are silenced

Re: “‘Disruptive’ note on Remembrance Day,” letter, Nov. 13.

As the organizer of the ceremony, I can say that what we were doing was perfectly legal and we’ve had this conversation with the police many times over the 20-plus years. Police do nothing because there is no wrongdoing on our part.

Our event is a completely unscripted time for all comers to express their thoughts about war, surviving war, being veterans, being widows etc.

Phil Ochs once wrote: “Can’t sing louder than the guns when I’m gone.” Thankfully we didn’t have to endure the cannon fire of Remembrance Days past. We hope for a future when the guns of war are silenced worldwide.

Art Farquharson
Victoria

After witnessing war, will fight to end it

Re: “‘Disruptive’ note on Remembrance Day,” letter, Nov. 13.

Congratulations to the writer for his acute hearing, from Belleville, of our “disruptive” gathering Nov. 11 at the Spanish War memorial on Menzies.

Every year since 1988 we have used this site to remember all those who have died in war — not just those who went or were sent to fight.

We follow the example of the Women’s Institute in north England who decided, in 1932, to use a white poppy instead of red because white is the symbol of peace and red the symbol of war. White poppies are commonly used in Europe and England.

We respect those who wish to commemorate family or others who fought in the two world wars, even if we are disturbed by the cannon fire.

But we get together to remember the millions who have died as victims and without trumpets or flags, for causes that nobody wants to remember. Remember Vietnam? Iraq? War makes no distinction, but war makes a lot of money for those who make guns.

We honour free speech, though some may not like what we think or say.

We include many old folk, like me, who have bitter memories of war.

I am 93. My father was killed in the London blitz. My sister was a widow at 19. My husband joined the parachute corps at 19 and was trained to drop at night on German airfields in North Africa and kill with a garrotte. Silently.

He was hospitalized and could not speak for eight months. Then he was released and sent to kill in Burma. Fifteen years later he was still hallucinating, seeing again the civilians he killed. He died at 41.

I have witnessed horrors as a journalist in Central America and Chile and I will do everything I can to stop violence or praise for violence.

Two naval officers on the way home stopped to ask about our white poppies and took them home. Maybe we can all listen and learn from each other, even if we don’t agree.

Alison Acker
Victoria

Anti-vaxxers owe the rest of us

I watched in total disgust as anti-vaxxers disrupted the Remembrance Day ceremonies in Kelowna.

They claim they have the right to not get vaccinated, that may be so, but they do not have the right to spread a potentially fatal disease through their community.

I seriously doubt that any soldier went to war so these ill-informed people could claim the “right” to remain unvaccinated and spread disease and potential death in their community.

These anti-vaxxers need to realize they owe it to their community to not spread disease.

Kerry Butler
Salt Spring Island

Sacrifices in war because of Canadians

Re: “‘Disruptive’ note on Remembrance Day,” letter, Nov. 13.

It’s regrettable that the author feels inconvenienced by the humble ceremony that took place at the monument commemorating those who fell during the Spanish Civil War.

Had he been just a little more inquisitive, he would have discovered that many Canadians have deep reservations about Canada’s role in world conflicts.

Every year at this time ceremonies erupt across our country and the word “sacrifice” is used. But seldom do we acknowledge the sacrifice made by the civilians of Dresden and Hamburg when their cities were annihilated by Canadian bomber crews.

Nor do we put our flags at half mast on Aug. 6 to commemorate the incineration of 66,000 men, women and children when a bomb, made of Canadian uranium, was dropped on Hiroshima.

We have even chosen, conveniently, to forget how our peacekeeping warriors tortured and murdered an innocent Somali teenager in 1993.

Its admirable that some Canadians choose to look beyond the deep-rooted narrative and pay tribute to those who, in the 1930s, fought against fascism while our prime minister and our business leaders praised Hitler’s leadership and turned hundreds of Jewish refugees away.

Remembrance Day is important, but lets ensure that what we choose to remember actually does pay tribute to all those who made sacrifices.

Kay Gimbel
Victoria

Inaction helped bring bloody, senseless wars

What has become of the dignity and honouring of the dead who gave their lives for the preservation of our most cherished values?

Where is the value of “free speech” if it is so unrestrained as to enable a small unrepresentative rabbles to dishonour and disrupt our Remembrance Day ceremonies?

The inaction of the law officers who enabled this disruption was inexcusable.

You can be certain measures to prevent this would have been prompt if the central figures had been from other cultures in other jurisdictions.

The remembrance of past bloodshed and disharmony is jeopardized if the repetition of conflicting amplified messaging continues.

Our imperfect Parliament has already been diluted by competing interest of East versus West, and now we risk greater disharmony because our protectors of the law have no teeth.

Lest we forget, it was inaction that drove prideful solitudes of the past to bloody, senseless wars.

When will we ever learn? Omission is the most common sin of all.

Russell Thompson
Victoria

Segregated, separated by a bad policy

Re: “B.C.’s changes to autism funding unscientific and discriminatory,” commentary, Nov. 12.

Roshan Danesh was right on the mark. Children and adults with differences fall through the gaps when our systems insist on one size fits all.

In fact, this policy comes close to human-rights abuse in excluding people whose diversity is better served with individualized methods. How very sad that a young man had to experience that at his death.

When people with diversities reached adulthood 20 to 30 years ago, they were funnelled into day programs, institutions and sheltered workshops (hubs, as Danesh describes) with the belief that they were more alike to each other than the typical population: out of sight, out of mind and we’re doing what’s right and best.

Then a previous government after consultation brought in individualized funding so that people with differences and their families could access suitable therapy or choose their own activities, hire their own staff and be in charge of their lives.

This resulted in people realizing full citizenship for the first time.

Obviously, this government hasn’t learned that funding going to families is helping with diverse needs and that their one-size-fits-all policy will only serve to segregate and separate people once again from the general population.

Sandra Phillips
North Saanich

One size does not fit all children with disabilities

Re: “B.C.’s changes to autism funding unscientific and discriminatory,” commentary, Nov. 12.

As a retired social worker and Children’s Commission investigator, and as the mother of a son who was severely brain injured and thereby lived with learning disabilities, and the grandmother of a grandson with autism, I have some insight into the struggles to get appropriate services for children with severe disabilities.

One thing I know is that one size does not fit all.

I agree with the points Roshan Danesh made. For example, services for a child with autism would be unlikely to be useful to a child with learning disabilities and vice versa. And those for a child with learning disabilities may not be useful to a deaf or mute child or a child with mental illness.

While it is laudable that the ministry would like to get services to children earlier, appropriate services should be a primary goal. However, appropriate services do not come in a one-size-fits-all approach, and can be harmful to the very children the ministry says it is attempting to help.

The ministry should be putting its efforts toward earlier and earlier diagnosis so that services can be targeted during crucial early years. For example, my grandson waited three years on a wait list for a diagnosis of severe autism, and therefore access to appropriate services.

Without the diagnosis, the services available were not appropriate. As soon as he had the diagnosis, appropriate services were much more accessible and he has started to make some real progress.

It feels like the ministry is taking a top-down policy-making approach, which lacks appropriate input, an evidence base and transparency. It appears that they are striving for mediocrity, and my fear is that they will achieve it or worse.

This policy pushes square pegs into round holes and the result of these practices will be carried by the most vulnerable in our society — hardly a child-centred approach.

Lorraine Calderwood-Parsons
Victoria

Don’t slight Esquimalt, which has a rich history

I take exception to the statement in the advertisement about “Esquimalt Town Square” on Nov. 13, because it said: “A western suburb of metropolitan Victoria … Esquimalt was once not as well known.”

Wrong! Esquimalt was known to the Royal Navy as early as 1837 and by Order-in-Council, June 1865, Esquimalt was made the permanent headquarters of the Royal Navy Pacific Fleet. Not Victoria!

In 1887, Esquimalt, not Victoria, was chosen as the site to establish the first permanent Army base on the West Coast of Canada. The Royal Canadian Artillery ‘C’ Battery were the first Canadian Troops stationed here.

One of the terms of B.C. joining confereration was the building of the first graving dock in Esquimalt.

Esquimalt, not Victoria, has been headquarters for the Royal Canadian Navy since its beginning as the Naval Service of Canada in 1910. The second graving dock [Panamax], the third largest in the world, opened in 1927 in Esquimalt and continues to serve the ships of the world.

There are many places named Victoria. There is only one Esquimalt and we the residents are proud of who we are. We do not play second fiddle to Victoria.

Sherri Robinson
Esquimalt

Amateur radio could help in an emergency

Re: “$16M hardened building would help keep emergency services running in major disaster,” Nov. 14.

And what “backup” plan is in place when a significant seismic event takes out the towers that support communications? The computer server room and the separate personnel rooms may well survive, but if the earthquake is damaging enough to cause enough damage to take out standard transmission capabilities, it wouldn’t be a stretch to think those large towers might be damaged too.

I’m in Ontario and am part of a national group of licensed volunteers that use a virtually foolproof method of over the air communications known as amateur radio. Our group can provide communications to agencies at a moment’s notice — in fact, that’s what we train for.

Many of our members are ICS trained and our mandate is to sit with agencies wanting to pass traffic but unable to for any number of reasons.

Amateur radio is effective because it does not rely on infrastructure. A simple radio, antenna and a power source (battery or wall power) is all that is required. It is precisely for this reason that municipalities should look closely at this type of communications format that is not susceptible to tower failures, power outages, software hacks, seismic events etc.

Ian Clarke (VA3KCP)
Toronto

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