SUNDAY MORNING EDITORIAL — The B.C. Day long weekend marks, coincidentally, the 100th anniversary of Canada’s entry into the First World War.
Many 100th anniversaries will be marked this year and during the next several years in connection with that war but the date that Canada entered the war against Germany — Aug. 4, 1914 — is, perhaps, the most significant. As Premier Christy Clark said in her official statement marking the anniversary, “The grievous loss of life and immense suffering on all sides remains a dark chapter in world history. But this war also saw Canada come into its own as a country: proud, persistent, and courageous, even in the face of death.”
Though, as Clark says, Canada came into its own during the war, there’s some irony in the fact this country’s involvement wasn’t our own decision. Aug. 4, 1914 is the date Great Britain, not Canada, declared war on Germany. As a British dominion, Canada had to join in. On Aug. 5, Canada officially declared itself likewise at war with Germany but it was largely a formality.
Nevertheless, Canada’s support of Great Britain was unquestioned and complete. From a tiny army of barely 3,000 when war was declared, Canada created the Canadian Expeditionary force within a few weeks.
Of the 620,000 Canadians who served in Europe, close to 56,000 came from B.C. They signed up in small and large towns throughout the province; many lied about their age so they could serve, and they were trained and shipped overseas to fight in the fields and trenches in battles like Gallipoli, the Somme and Vimy, Of those who served, 6,225 died.
Many nations around the world have planned events to mark the anniversary of the war as it relates to them, assembling exhibitions, educational events and commemorative ceremonies. “The 100th anniversary of the First World War represents a unique opportunity for Canadians to reflect on our country’s long and proud military history,” is the way Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino said it last year as plans were being made.
Canada’s last world War One veteran, John Babcock, died four years ago at the age of 109. He was only 16 when he enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Force.
The importance of remembering our war veterans is often stressed during Remembrance Day ceremonies and other anniversaries. The fact that, 100 years after Canada entered World War One, the nation is going to lengths to mark the anniversary, shows that we haven’t forgotten, and never will.