Remembrance Day ceremonies at UBC Okanagan Friday saw those gathered paying respects to the two soldiers recently killed on Canadian soil as well as those who served before them in wars in foreign countries.
As speakers took to the podium, they pointed out that the recent deaths of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, who was fatally shot at the National War Memorial in Ottawa Oct. 22, and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, who was killed in a deliberate hit-and-run in Quebec two days before that, put the concepts of service and sacrifice in sharp focus.
The acting dean of the university, Barb Rutherford, pointed out that their deaths “left our country in mourning.”
It also highlighted the remarkable resilience and compassion of Canadians across the country, said fourth year history student Tom MacCauley.
Days after Cirillo’s death, MacCauley ensured that UBC Okanagan students were in step with the rest of the country, in a “wear red” campaign that paid homage to the fallen soldier.
“From coast to coast people wore red in solidarity,” he said. He also pointed out that when racism reared its head as a response to the killing in Cold Lake, Alberta, with vandals damaging a mosque, it was quickly overshadowed by the volume of caring acts by more even minded Canadians.
Those kinds of acts of resilience and compassion are what bind us, he said.
This year’s ceremony also marked the centennial of the beginning of WWI.
All of that war’s veterans are now dead, while the veterans of the WWII, which started just 25 years later, are dying at a rate of about 1,500 a day in North America.
Those men and women, and the sacrifices they made, said Reverend Dick Fletcher, paved the way for Canadians to live freely.
We are able to worship “as we will in Synagogues, Mosques, Temples or the churches of our choice” because of them.
And how we as Canadians “treat the precious gifts that came from those sacrifices” is something we should all consider.
We need to “reflect on that debt that we owe and can never repay,” Fletcher said.