Remembrance Day Weekend

Nov 09, 2018 | Mark Ryan


Here's a History Lesson

Well that doesn’t seem fair. Exactly one hundred years ago, in November 1918, Canada was younger than I am today. (1918-1967 =51).  I guess it’s time to refresh my Will.

So what was going on 100 years ago during the waning days of World War 1?

Halifax: My grandmother’s wounded left cheek was healed – more or less.  It still bore an unsightly scar from ear to chin – a result of the Halifax explosion 11 months earlier which killed her husband and destroyed their home.  She styled her hair over it for the rest of her life.  A widow with two small children (perhaps 3 – details are sketchy) she was barely scraping by.

Seattle: (yes, Seattle). Reigning Stanley Cup Champions, the Seattle Metropolitans were having another strong season. The following spring they would eventually host the Montreal Canadiens in the cup final.  The best-of-five series was tied 2-2 but was cancelled due to a Spanish Flu outbreak.  The flu would claim the life of Canadiens' defenseman Joe Hall four days later.  There would be no cup winner that season.

Vancouver: Closer to home, earlier in 1918 came the Vancouver General Strike -- the first in our nation’s history.  It was sprung by the city’s labour movement as an anti-war/draft protest, but was not well-received, even on the “left coast.”  Returned soldiers ransacked the Labour Temple in downtown Vancouver, seized one of the strike’s primary activists and forced him to publically kiss the Union Jack.  This was a compromise after a local suffragette fought off attempts to throw the labour organizer out the window.

And who knew that November 9th was such an auspicious day in German history?

  • November 9, 1918: The rule of Emperors in Germany ended when Kaiser Wilhelm II was dethroned in the November Revolution by his chancellor Max von Baden,

  • November 9, 1922: Albert Einstein was named the winner of the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics.

  • November 9, 1923: The failed Beer Hall Putsch, from 8 to 9 November, marks an early emergence and provisional downfall of the Nazi Party as an important player on Germany's political landscape.

  • November 9, 1938: In what is today known in German as Kristallnacht ("Night of Broken Glass"), from 9 to 10 November, synagogues and Jewish property were burned and destroyed on a large scale, and more than four hundred Jews were killed or driven to suicide. After 10 November, about 30,000 Jews were arrested; many of whom later died in concentration camps.  The following May, Canada’s Liberal Prime Minister William Lyon MacKenzie King turned away more than 907 Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazi’s. I can scarce consider this moment in our national history without swearing in my head -- feeling sick inside – disturbed and deeply confused. Canada? It’s disgusting. And we should have apologized a long time ago. Credit Trudeau for getting it done, although far too late.

  • November 9, 1989: The fall of the Berlin Wall ended German separation and started a series of events that ultimately led to reunification. November 9 was considered for the date for German Unity Day, but as it was also the anniversary of Kristallnacht, (see above) this date was considered inappropriate as a national holiday.

And did you know that in 1918 nearly 5000 Canadian soldiers had joined tens of thousands in an international force to fight Marxists in the Russian revolution?  This paled compared to Japan’s 70,000 anti-communist fighters.

As for November 9, 2018 (today).  I am well-fed, sheltered from the encroaching deep freeze, free to vote my conscience, to worship as I please, or not at all, to badmouth my government openly, to go to the movies.  Precious, precious freedom.