On November 11, people across the country will pause to remember those who lost their lives fighting for the ideals that define Canada. This is important, for it gives us a chance to reflect on our collective history as Canadians and as individuals sharing this world. With hate crimes on the rise, acknowledging where we’ve been allows us to more deeply reflect on where we’re going.
As we near this important date, it is important for us to think about what Remembrance Day means, about who has been recognized and about who has not. Viewing the world with an equity lens is to understand that for every narrative, there are dozens of untold perspectives. There are always stories that haven’t been heard. The observation of Remembrance Day is no different.
Harmony Movement was formed, in part, after Lt.-Col. Pritam Singh Jauhal was denied entrance into a Royal Canadian Legion in Surrey in 1993. Despite having fought for the British Empire for 38 years, he was not allowed to join fellow veterans on account of his religious headgear. Jauhal spent the rest of his life fighting for religious freedom and for a broader, more open understanding of what it means to be a Canadian. He died in 2016 at the age of 95.
Unfortunately, Jauhal’s fight continues. Just this year, a Sikh man in Tignish was denied entry into a legion because of his headgear. This is indicative of the fact that, while Canada has made strides in becoming an inclusive country, there is still work to be done.
Do our students know about these stories? When we think of a “Canadian soldier” what comes to our mind first? What image appears?
How many other stories like Jauhal’s are there to be told? How do we ensure that we honor those stories too? On Remembrance Day, how do we include a multiplicity of stories so that we have a richer and more accurate understanding of who is a part of Canada?
This Remembrance Day, I encourage teachers to expand our thanks – to take a moment to hear untold stories and to honour those as well. Discuss the role that women played as nurses because they were not allowed to serve. In 1941, the first Women’s Division of the Royal Canadian Air Force was formed, but women largely held clerical roles. Indeed, the Division’s slogan was, “We serve that men may fly”.
And what about No. 2 Battalion, Canada’s segregated military unit? Black men were prohibited from enlisting and were told, in essence, that it was not their country to fight for. Even when they were given the right to enlist, they faced racism and discrimination regularly.
These stories deserve to be told. We, as a country, have an obligation to recognize these inequities so that we can grow and learn and include. This Remembrance Day, take a moment to ask your students what the occasion means and which perspectives not fully recognized. Take a moment to make this day – and all other days – one that acknowledges inequities and takes steps toward inclusion.