Remembering Canada’s multiculturalism at Remembrance day

Who has heard of ten Sikhs fighting for a country that did not recognize them as citizens? Or Ojibwa gunner Willard Bolduc, decorated for his efforts in World War II.

With Remembrance Day tomorrow, it is time for students and staff to reflect on the values of Canada and its people.

Canada is touted as a diverse multicultural country and Gleneagle is the same. The social justice tree mural near the MPR shows the diverse cultural backgrounds of students and staff. Even a walk in the hallway among all the students reveals the diversity that exists in these walls.

If Gleneagle, like Canada, is not a monoculture country, why do Remembrance Day assemblies make it seem so? The wartime photos combined with the videos of war veterans usually feature young and old white men and women. Rarely is there a photo or a tribute to a veteran of colour or indigenous heritage even though history demonstrates that these people were contributing veterans.

International students, refugees, and newly landed immigrants do not have the same understanding of Remembrance Day as Canadian students and staff do because they may come from countries that may not have participated in the world wars. Or in some cases, their experience with war may be very different from those of North Americans.

Contrary to popular belief, WWII was as close to a world war as it gets. While the beginning of the war is often given to Germany’s invasion of Poland, other historians consider the invasion of Manchuria by Japan to be the start in 1931.  This alternate start shows the impact the war had on countries not commonly associated with Remembrance Day such as China and Japan.

The lack of representation in these assemblies potentially disconnects and alienates students of other heritages.

Imagine a Dunkirk movie that only focused on the trapped soldiers without the British civilian effort that saved the stranded. Such an omission would send a message to the families of those civilians that they do not deserve to be mentioned.

Is this not therefore the same message with a Remembrance Day that does not include people of other ethnicities?

The story of Remembrance Day would not be complete without the efforts of the black, Asian, and Indigenous soldiers who also risked their lives.

Without the inclusion of marginalized communities, they could feel invisible during these ceremonies.

This is not meant to degrade the value nor the honour of the sacrifices made for the freedoms that Canada enjoys, but to highlight the lack of inclusivity. 

How many students had knowledge of diverse cultures fighting for Canada in the two world wars before high school?

The education system, like any other system, needs time to change to fit a welcoming modern world. 

Luckily, change is coming.

The addition of a land acknowledgment on classroom windows and now in Talon Talk is a step in the right direction.

With the assembly tomorrow, teachers and students can bring their own stories into the curriculum. 

Open discussions for students to share their experiences of conflict or war as both are still prevalent today. Many cultures have their own war heroes and memorial days.

Students who wish to express their gratitude or talk can contact the local legion to chat with a knowledgeable member.

However, change must be visible for it to be effective. At future Remembrance Day assemblies, include the photos and stories of those who have been marginalized. Maybe even include a speaker who does not look like the cookie-cutter photos from the two world wars.

Only by truly remembering all the brave people who have served Canada will preserve Canada’s values as a diverse free country.