There has been a long, ongoing quest within the community of Canadian Vietnam veterans to have the deaths of their comrades-in-arms formally remembered by the Canadian government on occasions such as Canada’s Remembrance Day. This quest continues.
On Canada’s Remembrance Day of 2005, the Canadian government had absolutely no sentiments of gratitude for the 20,000 or so fellow Canadians who served, nor for the more than 100 young Canucks who died, fighting for freedom and against communism during the Vietnam War.
Flowery words were spoken about brave soldiers who fought and died in World War I and World War II and the Korean War, but there were no words spoken about the long, bloody Cold War conflict known as the Vietnam War. Ambassadors from many nations, including former enemy nations, were invited to lay wreaths in commemoration of the sacrifices made by those who died in Canada’s 20th century wars, including Americans who chose to fight in the uniform of a foreign country, Canada. They, along with Canadian soldiers, were honored on Canada’s Remembrance Day. However, Canada refused to honor and respect the thousands of its own citizens who crossed the border to don the military uniform of the United States of America and fight against the world-wide scourge of communism during the Cold War.
However, when one visits the Veterans Affairs Canada website, there is this explanation of “Canada’s Day of Remembrance”:
Every year on November 11, Canadians pause in a silent moment of remembrance for the men and women who have served, and continue to serve our country during times of war, conflict and peace. We honour those who fought for Canada in the First World War (1914-1918), the Second World War (1939-1945), and the Korean War (1950-1953), as well as those who have served since then. More than 1,500,000 Canadians have served our country in this way, and more than 100,000 have died. They gave their lives and their futures so that we may live in peace.
The following is from an essay by Earl McRae that appeared in “The Ottawa Sun” of 11 November 2005:
There’ll be words spoken in the cold November air about our brave soldiers who fought and died in World War I and World War II and the Korean War, but there’ll be no words spoken about the long and terrible and bloody conflict known as the Vietnam War. There’ll be invited ambassadors with wreaths for the laying from countries that are our military allies, and from countries that were once our military enemies. There’ll be invited military personnel from countries that are our allies, and from countries that were once our enemies.
It will not be mentioned that among those whose sacrifice is being commemorated, who fought and who died in Canada’s 20th century wars, were Americans; Americans who chose to fight in the uniform of another country, our country. They, too, are being honoured this morning by Canada, but Canada is not honouring, and has not respected, the thousands of young Canadians who crossed the border to sign up for the Vietnam War wearing the uniform of the United States of America.
103 Canucks died in ‘Nam
It will not be mentioned that on the memorial in Washington, D.C., The Wall, with the names of the more than 58,000 U.S. soldiers killed in the Vietnam War, are the names of the 103 Canadians also killed.
It will not be mentioned that Canada, neutral in the Vietnam War, permitted some 30,000 American draft dodgers into the country as landed immigrants, along with numerous military deserters.
It will not be mentioned that Canada, the Canada who said Canadians signing with U.S. forces for Vietnam was a violation of Canada’s Foreign Enlistment Act of 1937 disallowing Canadians to serve in the military of a country at war with a nation Canada has no quarrel with, is the same and hypocritical Canada whose economy profited from the war by the sale to the American military between 1968 and 1973 of $2.7 billion worth of war materiel from guns to grenades to aircraft engines to military vehicles to boots to berets to napalm.
It will not be mentioned that Canada, who wouldn’t send troops, Canada, who opposed Canadians joining the U.S. military to fight, is the Canada whose delegates to the various peace commissions willingly undertook spy work for the CIA, helped the Americans to secretly bring more troops and arms into South Vietnam, helped the U.S. keep the chemical defoliant program from the public, permitted the U.S. military to test Agent Orange destined for Vietnam at Camp Gagetown, N.B., permitted U.S. bombers to practise their carpet-bombing runs near Suffield, Alta., and North Battleford, Sask.
The Canadian Vietnam Veterans Association, with branches across Canada, has not been invited to the Remembrance Day service this morning. If the association, or any individual Canadian Vietnam vets, wish to use the War Memorial for wreath laying to honour their Canadian comrades, along with our soldiers in all the wars, they will have to do so detached from the official ceremony and — as they have in the past — when eyes are looking the other way.
Along the Detroit River in Windsor, Ontario, there is a small, privately funded monument to those Canadians killed in the Vietnam War, The North Wall. When surviving Canadian veterans returned home to Canada from the battlefields of Asia, they encountered a nation that had changed dramatically into a society that was strongly anti-war, anti-Vietnam veteran and pro draft-dodgers and military deserters. With no veterans groups to assist them, nor any help whatsoever from the Canadian government, many of these Vietnam vets relocated permanently to the United States.
Will Remembrance Day 2006 be any different? We shall see and we shall report it here.
Canada’s Remembrance Day Defined
Have a listen to the Remembrance podcast on iTunes or the Royal British Legion blog. It’s a good way to remember.