ARCHIVED - Remembrance Day 2015, throughout Canada and elsewhere

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News Article / November 24, 2015

By Ruthanne Urquhart

Every year on November 11, we gather to commemorate the Canadians who have served—and are serving today—in conflicts and wars around the world. On wings and bases, in cities and towns throughout Canada, and in churchyards and cemeteries, embassy grounds and camps around the world, we pause to thank and give thanks for the Canadian men and women who have worn, who wear today, their commitment to Canada on their sleeves.

The families of serving Canadians and veterans, and the families and descendants of men and women who have fallen in the service of Canada, have their loved ones’ comrades-in-arms to talk with, or family photographs or journals to view, or graves to visit, to enable that commemoration. There are some descendants of Canadian warriors, however, who may not even know of their heritage.

The United States declared war on Great Britain in 1812. It was a follow-on war that arose from the Napoleonic Wars between Great Britain and France; it adversely affected U.S. shipping because of Great Britain’s blockades and seizures of U.S. vessels.

That American declaration of war included what would, 55 years later, become Canada. However, on this western side of the Atlantic, the lines were blurred. The majority of citizens of Canada-to-come who had settled in Upper Canada (extending to the western reaches of the Great Lakes, and some territory along the British Columbia coast) and Lower Canada (stretching from the eastern reach of the Great Lakes down both sides of the Saint Lawrence River valley to the Atlantic) went to war for Great Britain against the U.S.

Others from that vast territory, drawn by the freedoms guaranteed in a brand new Declaration of Independence and Constitution as opposed to life under a distant ruler, fought on the U.S. side of the conflict. And given the relative ease of travel by water compared to cross-country, the merchants of New England and New York did as much or more business with their neighbours to the north as they did with American customers. They were reluctant-at-best supporters of the American cause, or openly worked against it. Of two things we are certain: the lines were, indeed, blurred, and both sides enlisted the help of Aboriginal North Americans.

It was generally believed that Canada-to-come would be easy pickings and that an invasion would be welcomed by its residents. To the U.S., the war was a means to retaliate against Great Britain for the economic distress caused by the situation in Europe, and for the perceived encouragement by Great Britain of Aboriginal peoples to resist the westward U.S. expansion. To the vast majority of the residents of Canada-to-come, however, the war was a welcome chance both to demonstrate their loyalty to Great Britain and to solidify their North American homeland. Invasion would be resisted to the last man and woman.

Canada-to-come/Great Britain won that war, and while some Canadians today know that they are descended from the warriors of 1812, many more descendants of those early Canadians may not be aware of their ancestors.

On November 11, we remember those early warriors for Canada—Aboriginal, English, French, Scottish, German, Irish, Dutch, Swedish, and many more—whose courage and commitment won for us the beginnings of the nation we have today. We remember all of the men and women who have fought in Canada’s name since those early days. And we thank the men and women in uniform who represent Canada today, at home and elsewhere.

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