Back to the basics

As we enter November and as Remembrance Day approaches I expect to see a bevvy of stories about everything from stolen poppy fund donation boxes to explanations of why the poppy glorifies war … or doesn’t.

I found this story, from Nova Scotia, interesting: “Legion members in Sydney Mines, N.S., are upset after Jubilee Elementary School told them they couldn’t include a prayer in their Remembrance Day ceremony at the school … [and] …  A Prayer for People of Courage is typically read by a Christian minister during ceremonies and is about peace, protecting people serving in the military and remembering those who have fallen in battle.

Two things struck me:

  • First, A Prayer for People of Courage is one Christian denomination’s prayer and it is favoured by some military chaplains. It is certainly neither traditional nor universally used; and
  • Mel Birminghan, who served more than five years in the military and is currently the first vice-president of the local Royal Canadian Legion branch, said ““I can understand the no teaching of religion in school, but to dictate to us, The Royal Canadian Legion, and separate us, the veterans, I think that’s truly disrespectful .. [and] … “I’m sure every Canadian would agree with me.”” I’m 100% sure that many Canadians would NOT agree with him. Many of us have watched, in rather a horrid fascination, as our societal attempts to be more and more inclusive involved adding more and more padres and chaplains and rabbis and imans and shamans of various sorts, shapes and sizes to what should be a clear, simple, moving act of remembrance.

I believe that the school administration is correct to want to be inclusive ~ and that means either adding more and more prayers or, simply, having none at all.

It has always seemed to me that a brief excerpt from Laurence Binyon‘s ‘For The Fallen‘ is sufficient for every denomination and religion:


It says, clearly and simply, absolutely everything that ever needs to be said at any and every service of remembrance at every school and in every church, temple and synagogue and at every cenotaph, everywhere. Nothing more needs to be said and nothing will ever say it quite as well.

The Remembrance Day service is not about the Royal Canadian Legion, nor is it about veterans ~ it is only about those who died fighting for Canada. It’s not about politics or values or religion; it’s certainly not about ethnicity; it’s not even about courage; it’s about remembering those who made the supreme sacrifice. We don’t need many flags, we don’t even need anthems; we just need one or two people who will represent us all ~ the Governor-General and the Silver Cross Mother on Parliament Hill, maybe the Reeve and someone with some connection to someone who was killed in battle in a small town ~ their role is to affirm our country’s and our communities’ never-ending sense of loss.

And, above all, we need someone to recite the Act of Remembrance ~ that one verse from For the Fallen. It would be nice to have a piper to play Flowers of the Forest during the two minutes of silence; it would also be nice to have a bugler to play the Last Post and the Rouse at the beginning and the end of the silence; it might be nice to sing ‘O Canada‘ at the beginning and ‘God Save the Queen‘ at the end of the service, but the whole things need not take more than about five minutes, including the two minutes of silent reflection …

Jubilee Elementary School is getting back to basics; it’s getting back to the notion of what Remembrance Day was meant to be. The nay-sayers and the Royal Canadian Legion have different agendas, but they are wrong. There is no need for dignitaries; not even any compelling need for music; and, certainly, there is no need for prayers … except for the one that each person might say, silently, in her or his heart and mind.




Published by Ted Campbell

Old, retired Canadian soldier, Conservative ~ socially moderate, but a fiscal hawk. A husband, father and grandfather. Published material is posted under the "Fair Dealing" provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act for the purposes of research, private study and education.

2 thoughts on “Back to the basics

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