Burns Lake is far removed from any military institution or installation. The politics of Northern B.C. are centred on bread-on-the table issues, like work, education, forestry, mining and pipelines.
A local paper doesn’t cover international affairs very often, unless those affairs directly affect the ongoing local narrative. Our narrative up here isn’t often interrupted by wars far away.
Those with living memories of waking up one morning in Northern B.C. only to find themselves on a train enlisted for military service before the end of the day are fewer every year.
Thankfully, it doesn’t seem likely that times like those will be upon us again anytime soon.
Last Sunday many in Burns Lake joined the national moment when Canadians across the country gathered to reflect and honour those who made great sacrifices for freedom.
As the number of Canadian veterans continues to decline, what will happen to our collective memory of past wars and the will to ‘never again’ see the eruption of war on a worldwide scale?
It is too simplistic to say we will forget how terrible war is and fall into it again under the sway of nationalistic jingoism or misplaced international do-gooding.
Those days are gone. Our cynicism of nationalism and our reluctance to participate in the brutal but localized violence that seems to define much of world’s present conflicts, make it very unlikely that we’ll see a fervor for war overtake the country.
We are fortunate to be sheltered here from the brutal realities that many in the world find themselves in.
Geography is our insulation. It is difficult for a Canadian to be drawn into a conflict, unless he or she enlists to do it. Even then, our military is rightly cautious with its international commitments.
Dozens of ongoing, violent conflicts consume and maim tens of thousands of young and old every year. On a worldwide scale, veterans of war continue to mount every year.
Some of us grew up with a parent who was a serving member in a major conflict, making the experience of war more real and immediate. But for most, war is something that happened far away and long ago.
Do Remembrance Day ceremonies bring to the forefront of people’s minds the tragic immediacy of war? We see those who have served and it reminds us that our way of life here came at a great cost to many.
We also recognize in the younger men and women who participate in the services, like our cadets, the reality that terrible conflicts far away could still consume and maim our own.
We are thankful to all the veterans who have survived. We remember especially those who, because of their ultimate sacrifice, are most in danger of being forgotten.
We are also thankful for those who serve today, whether in hostile overseas missions or in their ready willingness to rise to a call to action by their enlistment in the Canadian Armed Forces or Reserves.
We also acknowledge the men and women who continue to quietly support veterans, both young and old, by their participation in the many Royal Canadian Legions across the province and across the country.
Our own legion here in Burns Lake and its many volunteers are an important part of how we as a community support those who we publicly remember once a year.