Friday, July 07, 2006

Furor over "desecration" of Canada's National War Memorial

In the last week, a lot of opinions have been shared and a lot of outrage, too, over the infamous event of three young men (two minors and a 23-year old) urinating on Canada's National War Memorial after the fireworks display on Canada Day.

Squeaky-wheel, me, I feel compelled to wade in.

Outraged veterans have been calling for drawing and quartering to be brought back into English Common Law. Canadians of one stripe or another have argued over whether the acts of these drunken revelers were deliberate desecration of a "sacred site" or whether it was plain ignorance at work. Others have argued over the proper punishment, the proper action by the courts, and about whether guards should be posted on the site.

Still others, many of them veterans, have suggested that the incidents reflect the general attitude of Canadians over the war dead ("Nonsense!" I say, to that.).

This is the action of one person.....

Michael Pilon/Canadian Press

This is the action of many Canadians.....

Canada Day, 2005 © Anneke Dubash
The fact is that, on any given day, Canadians of all walks of life, have access to the site. This gives Canadians (and visitors) the chance to approach the monument, to sit and contemplate, to experience and to learn about the memorial and the sacrifices of those it is meant to represent.

On any given day, Canadians eat their lunch in the shadows of the monument, have their photos taken near it, walk by it on their way to work or to shop.... That is as it should be. We should be reminded of it every day in the course of our daily activities, not just on Remembrance Day.

Yes, certainly, along with those who use the site as a method of getting from Point A to Point B, there are those, mostly kids, who use the site inappropriately. I have seen kids skateboarding over and around the memorial, as well as biking. I dare say that, in the history of the monument, it has seen more than its fair share of toilet breaks by stupid and drunken revelers. No, I don't think this should happen. However, by the same token, I do not believe that the site should be walled off, sentrified, or made into the same sort of glorified shrine that is the monument at the Arlington National Cemetery.

It might also be noted that, when the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was in the works, it was veterans, themselves, who demanded that no barrier should be placed around the tomb, so as to make it accessible to all....

I firmly believe that, as my many years of attending the National Remembrance Day ceremonies at the site has shown, Canadians, especially Ottawans, have a great respect not just for the site, but for the contributions of all those, the living and the dead, who fought to uphold the ideals that Canada, as a whole, supports. I believe that ignorance is what was at work late Saturday evening and I believe it is ignorance that is at work with kids who skateboard and ride their bikes over the monument.

Ignorance is not fought by posting sentries or denying people access to the site.

Ignorance is fought with intelligence and gentleness.... which is, as most would agree, the Canadian way.

In fact, as I work within metaphorical "spittin' distance" to the monument, I have seen intelligence and gentleness at work (and it DOES WORK) to change the ignorant actions of a number of people.

On a number of occasions, I have seen a lone veteran sitting at the monument. Seeing a kid skateboarding, he has approached the child, or children, as the case may be, and patiently explained that he is a veteran, what the monument is, and what it means, and why the act of skateboarding or biking over and around it is inappropriate. I have seen the child listen, look, and go away a little wiser and a bit more respectful of the site.

This is what is needed.

My suggestion is that, rather than placing sentries or guards or security fences or, heaven forfend!, moving it off Confederation Square, a fund should be set up to allow veterans to be on site during the Spring, Summer and Fall and especially on Canada Day, to do what they do best.... to educate Canadians about the folly of war and about the sacrifices of those who were, and are, forced to go to war.

2 comments:

echomikeromeo said...

If only all could be as wise as you, Mudhooks.

Dr Mike Pilon said...

Hi I am Dr Mike Pilon, the guy who took the shots that seem to have had an effect.
My original goal was to draw attention of Politicians and appointed officials around the Capital to the fact that on Canada Day a number of young people were sitting ont he Tomb and they had no idea what it represented.
I wrote what I felt was a resoned letter asking for Cordons, a light security presence. Not one reply from people whoe ssentially work FOR US !
My wife and I spent the weekend at The Chateau laurier, after the fire works I went over to see what was happening at the Cenotaph. There was a small cordon around the tomb and no one wason it. I was tlaking to the 2 young Commissionaires when the first of the trio did the dirty deed. A second who was in his gorup did the same a while later. I was taking shots of the trash around the site, beer bottles many broken on the steps etc..when the third lad appeared. he was totally out of it and one has to ask why his friends were not taking care of him
My outrage is not with soem rovong drunks..it is with oficials who could and should have taken steps to see that they were kept clear of the Cenotaph. I am working on an education compoenent which I will submit ( gratis on my aprt) to the suits who seem to now be interested...
I would like a cordon, a security presence to keep drunks away, such as militia, Military police etc.
And more improtantly an educational opportunity is presenting itself.
I will be approaching local Universities to suggest that history majors be given the task of compiling brief but consice accounts of battles, the home front and the humanelement of our War record and participation. I would like to coordinate their efforts with the Archives and with vieo and graphica rts students.
Several short but concise videos could play all day on large screens in the area which could be sheltered in tents nuch like those seen at nearby major's Hill Park.
I am also looking for itnerested firms to sponsor this venture. This would defray the costs of paying the students, which could be almost a grant to them, and for expenses for the TV's and tents and other expenses.
Such a sponsor would get immense PR as a result of this years avoidable fiasco.
As I said I am doing it for free on my part..I would like to get it tentatively organized then present it to the various officials as a fait accompli...I think we will see some meaningless meetings otherwise as no one in officialdom really wants to do anything controversial. This is not controversial but positive.
If you agree with this drop aline to the Minister of Public Works and the Misister of Heritage as well as The National capital COmission...and you MP/ MOO and if in Ottawa to the Mayor
I hope this helps :)

Dr Mike