In a country that traditionally does not know its own history, young people are often identified as the main offenders. But this poem is different. It represents something that is ours. Written by a Canadian, learned by Canadians and recited by Canadians. The Vimy Foundation is calling on all Canadian schools to help pass the torch of remembrance by reciting In Flanders Fields.
I feel very proud to say that I had an ancestor who fought in the war and returned to Canada as a veteran. I am sometimes astounded at how many Canadians don't know about their family's military contributions. In fact, a recent Ancestry.ca survey revealed one in three Canadians has no idea whether they had an ancestor who fought in the First World War.
As the war recedes even farther into the past, the experience of the Great War risks sliding out of our collective memory. The centenary of WWI challenges us to renew our understanding of the conflict and reconsider its contemporary meaning. In that same spirit, my office is hosting Lest We Forget, an exhibition of WWI-inspired paintings by celebrated contemporary artist Charles Pachter.
Just as no one living in 1914 could have foreseen the exponential horrors of the Second World War a mere twenty-five years later, likewise today we face the simultaneous onslaught of technological advances and government-sanctioned invasions of privacy, whose combined long-term ramifications for humanity are simply unknowable.
The inadmissibility of chemical weapons on the battlefield was as early as 1899 an international principle of war. As is often pointed out, even Hitler -- himself the victim of a gas attack -- recoiled from their use in battle. The First World War scrubbed battle of its supposed virtues and in the place of heroism instituted the practical diplomacy of a League of Nations.