By T.W. Paterson
Less than a month ago, we had municipal and regional elections. In the Cowichan Valley, just one voter in three cast their ballots. Ballots that were won with their blood by more than 111,000 Canadians in two world wars, the Korean conflict and in peacekeeping missions.
It can be argued that this is neither the time nor the place to dwell on October’s disappointing electoral turnout.
But Remembrance Day and the election, one of only many in recent years to attract dismal turnouts, are inextricably entwined. Why, after all, did these patriotic Canadians, most of them voluntarily, place themselves in harm’s way, risking not just death but disabling injuries and life-changing traumatic experiences?
For succeeding generations of Canadians to not even, once every four years, vote? Oh, but we do remember the fallen every Nov. 11.
A touching letter to the editor of the Times Colonist in August acknowledged the sacrifices of the Canadians at Dieppe in a way that truly puts voting and Remembrance into context. Former citizenship judge Gerald W. Pash noted that, in 1945, renowned parliamentarian Paul Martin Sr. toured the cemetery in which the Canadian Dieppe casualties were interred. Martin was struck by the fact that many of the names on the grave markers were hyphenated: the sons of Ukrainian-, French-, English-, Norwegian-Canadians and so on.
“Whatever their origin by immigration or birth,” he wrote, “they had fought and died for Canada and they should be recognized as Canadians.”
Martin was moved to introduce a bill to establish Canadian citizenship as a legal status, saying, “For the national unity of Canada and for the future greatness of this country, it is to be of utmost importance that all of us, new Canadians or old, have a consciousness of common purpose and common interests as Canadians: that all of us are able to say with pride and say with meaning, I am a Canadian citizen!”