Thoughts on Remembrance Day
It is the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 11 November 2019.
The Armistice Day/Remembrance Day “celebrations” proceed, complete with military uniforms and paraphernalia, 21-gun salutes and warplane flyovers, speeches honouring those who served.
From my high aerie here at Roberts House in James Bay, I reflect on the sometimes fine line between the use of the occasion to acknowledge the losses, the devastation, the evil of war, and the glorification of war itself.
“It doesn’t have to be this way,” declares one speaker.
What an opportunity this “holiday” potentially provides to becoming a glorification of peace as the only desirable, the only acceptable, mode of human interactions — toward each other, and toward all things, whether living beings or the vessels of life: The sacred earth, sea, and sky.
The red poppy is an appropriate symbol of perseverance under duress, ever-emerging new life, harbinger of hope for a better future.
Ryon C. Johnston
Remembrance Day service is simply too quiet
I attended the Remembrance Day service at the cenotaph in Victoria, and was disappointed once again.
Why is it that on many occasions during the year, it seems that we are able to fill the Inner Harbour with the sound of rock music, or the music of Symphony Splash, and yet the sound from the Remembrance Day service, arguably an event of much greater significance, barely seeps out 50 metres or so from the cenotaph.
The service is enjoyed by a few hundred people gathered immediately around the cenotaph, while thousands more of us are able to hear little or nothing — except the artillery, of course.
Surely between the City of Victoria, the legislature staff and the Department of National Defence, a sound system could be designed that would allow the words, music and prayers of the remembrance service to be heard by everyone gathered in the Inner Harbour.
Always remember their many sacrifices
I am honoured to have known many brave men and women who sacrificed so much of their lives for my future and well-being. They served willingly and suffered horribly while maintaining their faith in the better angels of humanity and hope for everlasting peace.
One who touched me deeply was my maternal grandfather, Lt. Robert C. Pitman, who enlisted in Winnipeg and served with the British Flying Officers Group as a gunner on a Handley Page biplane bomber.
Shot down, he served out the first war as a German prisoner in the Ingolstadt (Bavaria) camp, and I keep a photo of him clustered in a field with other POWs. Robert returned home in October 1919 to parents who thought he was dead.
My other grandfather disappeared, leaving my paternal grandmother and my father — then a little boy — waiting in Vancouver for word that never came. Many of my uncles, serving in both conflicts with the Seaforth Highlanders, never returned and those that did hobbled through life with missing limbs and unspeakable memories.
Fear and anxiety were constant in those times. In September 1939, at the outset of the second war, my great-grandfather wrote to Robert and begged him to not re-enlist and “not be unduly anxious and worried” in another “time of deepest anxiety,” as he had by then his own family. The letter was a desperate plea by an elderly man to save his family from more suffering, and his words are compelling.
I cherish these articles — the photo and letter — because they keep me grounded in the lived experiences and ugly truths of war. Through them, I remember and will never forget the many sacrifices of those generations.
Peter J. Smith
Tell readers about compact, efficient homes
Re: “House Beautiful: A dream house close to nature,” Nov. 9.
Nice house on two hectares with gold faucets.
Considering the serious social and political issues of housing affordability, I would suggest the Times Colonist change the focus of these articles to feature new or renovated homes that are well-designed, economical, environmentally compatible and energy efficient. Such housing will likely be compact, and should, ideally offer such features as closeness to shopping, transit, schools and public parks to minimize requirements for car use.
If owners and builders face barriers in achieving these goals due to zoning, building codes and/or red tape, let us hear about that.
Despite Indigenous bill, it’s business as usual
On Oct. 24, the B.C. government tabled the bill on adopting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. With the support of the Greens, the bill will surely pass.
This is a step forward, with special thanks to Scott Fraser, minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, for the precedent-setting work his department has done.
I’m puzzled, though, by the meaning of the words in Article 19. The different parties must negotiate in “good faith” to “obtain free, prior and informed consent” before actions are implemented that might affect the Indigenous people involved.
Last year, I attended a meeting at our local college to hear three guests talk about the government’s decision to proceed with the Site C dam. Amnesty International presented, as did Indigenous leader Bob Chamberlin and Sarah Cox (award-winning author of Breaching the Peace).
I took home a copy of UNDRIP and am astounded at how many articles in this document have been violated by the ongoing construction of the Site C dam. Is there any chance that this bill could be made retroactive in order to address these serious violations? Probably not.
Sadly, in my elder years, I’ve become somewhat cynical. I see the B.C. government, hydro, forestry, mining companies and LNG promoters publicly getting that “free, prior and informed consent” and then carrying on as planned.
The minister has said himself that First Nations will have no veto over development — it’s obviously business as usual. Very disheartening.
Minor surgery would solve the deer problem
Regarding the deer problem in our city. Having been a cowboy in my day, we controlled the reproduction of our bovine population in our feedlot by castrating the bulls so they could be fed with the heifers without the problem of the heifers “getting in calf” prior to their ultimate destination in the meat department of our local grocery stores.
I have enough cowboy friends who I am sure would love to come to Victoria, lassos in hand, to do some ropin’ and minor surgery to reduce the deer-reproduction problem.
Next spring’s male fawns could be attended to in a similar fashion and that would be that. Oh, and some people love prairie oysters as a delicacy.
Alberta putting climate targets at risk
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney recently stated that Greta Thunberg and her climate supporters are “opposed to the entire modern industrial economy,” adding that “their manifesto essentially calls for shutting down our entire economy.”
It is unclear where he got his information, but it was clearly not from Greta’s talk in Edmonton. In her statement, she encouraged leaders to leave politics out of climate discussions and described the science and policies outlined by the United Nations.
Her comments followed the recommendations of the Paris Accord signed in 2015 by 197 countries, including Canada, after 24 years of scientific, economic and social assessment.
This agreement requires every country, including China, India and the U.S., to report their emissions and outline their plan for decarbonization.
Canada’s commitments to decrease CO2 emissions by 30 per cent between 2005 and 2030 are at risk due to Alberta’s more than 200 per cent increase in oil production over the past 10 years.
Contrary to Kenney’s statement, all environmentalists support the closure of coal power plants, even with the temporary use of natural gas while awaiting more definitive decarbonization.
Unfortunately, the life-cycle carbon dioxide released into the environment from expanding Alberta’s oil production greatly exceeds that saved by the conversion of Alberta’s power plants, resulting in a net increase in the world’s greenhouse gases.
An easy way to get schools out of the dark
A letter in the Nov. 9 Times Colonist opposes permanent daylight time on the grounds that it would be detrimental to students and teachers to start school in the dark.
The consequences of continuing to have twice-annual time changes, or being on permanent standard time, or having different times from the West Coast states would be much more serious problems.
Besides, there is an easy solution to address the expressed concern. Simply move the start and end times of the school day to an hour later for all or part of the school year, and the start time relative to sunrise would be identical to that currently for the portion of the year we have standard time.
Ian F. Macdonald
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