Although it feels like war is a distant concept, most of us don’t realize how prevalent war is in our history and in our current lives.
“Lest We Forget” is a term we’re all familiar with, but it’s important to reflect on the realities of war so that we’re not doomed to repeat history:
Fenian raids: 1866-1871
Canada’s last invasion was by a group of Irish-American civil war veterans who believed that they would achieve concessions from Britain’s hold over Ireland by seizing control. Less than a dozen Canadians died.
Boer War: 1899
A period known as Black Week during the second Boer War in South Africa saw 2,776 British men killed, wounded and captured, after which Canada joined the effort. Canadian forces won much acclaim for leading the charge at the Second Battle of Paardeberg, one of the first decisive victories of the war. 224 Canadian lives were lost, 252 were wounded, and several were decorated with the Victoria Cross
The Great War (WWI): 1914-1918
A total of 619,636 men and women (almost 8% of our entire population at the time. Quite remarkable!) served in the Canadian forces in the First World War, and of these 66,655 were killed and another 172,950 were wounded.
In the later stages of the war, the Canadian Corps was regarded as among the most effective and respected of the armies on the Western Front - particularly the reputation as “shock troops” which were feared by the Germans.
World War II: 1939-1945
Of a population approximately 11.5 million, 1.1 million Canadians served in the armed forces in the Second World War. Of these, an officially recorded total of 42,042 members of the armed forces gave their lives, and another 55,000 were wounded.
This was a defining moment in Canadian history. A quiet country was suddenly transformed into a critical player in the 20th Century’s most important struggle. We made an international impact via - among others - such battles as Dieppe, Hong Kong, Ortona, and Juno Beach. This pathed the way to membership in NATIO, elevated to role of women in the economy, and left a legacy of proud service and sacrifice.
Korean War: 1950-1953
Many of us don’t realize - to the point that this is referred to as “The Forgotten War - that Canada sent over 25,000 troops to fight in Korea. There were 1,558 Canadian casualties, including 516 dead.
Persian Gulf War: 1990-1991
Canada was one of the first nations to agree to condemn Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, and promptly agreed to join the US-led coalition. Canada suffered no casualties during the conflict, but since its end, many veterans have complained of suffering from Gulf War Syndrome.
Invasion of Afghanistan: 2001- current
A Canadian set the world record for long distance kill in this US-led coalition’s effort to defeat the Taliban. 1800 Canadians have been injured to date, of which 158 - including Canada’s first female casualty - have lost their lives.
Invasion of Iraq: 2003 - current
Aside from a handful of soldiers “on exchange” to US forces, Canada did not officially get involved with combat. Despite not joining the invading coalition, Canada did get involved by helping to rebuild the country post-invasion and to help compose the country’s new Iraqi Constitution.
Canada has a long history of having a passion for peacekeeping. Since the UN’s beginning until 1989, Canada has participated in each and every peacekeeping mission. Lester B. Pearson is considered to be “the father of modern United Nations Peacekeeping, earning the moniker of Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Canada continues to play a significant role in these missions with 116 deaths from the 125,000 soldiers who have served.
As you can see, it’s not just the men who gave their lives fighting Nazis and ensuring our freedom that we should pause for this November. It’s the men and women that continue to lay down their lives for the sake of freedom, protecting our country, and standing up for our friends and neighbours.
This November 11, our moment of silence will remember the past but will also remember the future and how it can’t be taken for granted.