HRM universities forget Remembrance Day

Why don’t we remember anymore?

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The poppy commemorates a ceremonial day for veterans and those who sacrificed their lives. (Photo: Kelly Graham)

Silence. This is the response when asking what the universities are doing in observance of Remembrance Day.

It doesn't matter if the question is put to a student or a member of the president's office. On any of the big campuses in the area the response seems to be the same. In both cases people were surprised when told what the universities will be doing this week.

The presidents of both the University of King's College and Dalhousie University will be laying wreaths at the Sailor's Memorial in Point Pleasant Park and Grand Parade respectively. This information is hard to come by. No ceremonies will be held on campuses. King's has posted an 8x11 notice in the lobby notifying students that they are invited to join the president.

‘while they were dying'

The universities will be closed for Remembrance Day, which isn't enough according to Bob Butt, director of communications at the Royal Canadian Legion. He says, "All the people who died in our history up to this Nov. 11, while they were dying the last thing on their mind was a day off." He further clarified the Legion's position: "We feel Remembrance Day shouldn't be just a ‘day off.' Something should be done."



Butt explains that each of the provinces have chosen to treat Remembrance Day differently. In Nova Scotia Remembrance Day is governed by the Remembrance Day Act, which appears to allow schools to remain open to hold commemorative services. Butt feels is an important distinction for universities since, "People who go to universities do so because of the people who died."

"The university should recognize the importance of Remembrance Day," says Alex McPhedran, 22-year-old Dalhousie student. She says that the universities should make an effort to connect to students to the community. Dalhousie should be providing students with information on alternative Remembrance Day ceremonies if they won't be holding any of their own.

Meaning of ‘veteran' is changing

Many of the universities have faculty and alumni who are veterans. It seems that a valuable opportunity is being missed for the institutions and their students to reflect on why they are able to participate in an academic culture based upon freedom. McPhederan says, "they should recognize that it's multifaceted now that we have veterans from multiple wars."

Dalhousie was contacted for their views on the situation but have not replied.

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Universities cannot compell people to remember. But we can invite them to. The Chapel at King's, which celebrates and welcomes those of all faiths, is holding a special service, as it does every Rememberance Day (about which all students and faculty have been informed) on Nov 11 in the early evening. We expect it to be very well attended, as it usually is. Our fine Chaplain, much beloved of the King's community, also serves as Chaplain to the armed services.

Posted by Anne Leavitt | Nov 10, 2021