Every year we mark the 11th month, the 11th day and the 11th hour with two minutes of silence. This year it’s also the 11th year of the century.
One hundred years ago in 1911 WWI was not something Canadians we’re even thinking about. The issues of the day including debates over the beginning of the Royal Navy, whether free trade with the USA was a good or bad thing and our continued loyalty to Great Britain were all hot topics. It was the year Sir Robert Borden’s Conservatives formed a majority government, defeating Sir Wilfred Laurier and his Liberal government of the day.
To say that there was no conflict or war would not have been true. In fact 100 years ago there was a revolution in Mexico, Italy declared war on the Ottoman empire and the Wuchang Uprising started a revolution that lead to the founding of the Republic of China.
What wasn’t talked about or envisioned was a First World War. It’s amazing when you think about what has happened over the past century. Whether or not 100 years ago today anyone would have imagined that two world wars would have taken place and that democracy and freedom would be called into question and lives lost because of the battles for it. Both times despite the fear and tragedy of human sacrifice, democracy and freedom won.
Moving forward over those 100 years to 2011 democracy and freedom has marked this year as well. Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Syria and Libya are countries which have seen their people rise up and demand that their country move forward in freedom and in democracy. It is a challenge and a change which will take decades still to unfold and to implement and the road will not be an easy one for any of them. They have though; put a stake in the ground and a demand for a beginning.
When we take pause to look back and see the sacrifices of so many, it’s amazing to see that a majority of those who surrendered their lives in WWI and WWII were of the same age as those who surrendered their lives this year; young men and young women struggling for the same common purpose of freedom and democracy.
This morning when you’re at the cenotaph, at work, at school, at home or on the street take pause at 11am and remember. Remember the sacrifice of every man and every woman whose name is handwritten in the books which rest at the foot of the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill; Women and men who gave their lives for our country and for our democracy and freedom.
This year has reminded me of what others still wish and die for 100 years later, democracy and freedom. This morning specifically, on the 11th year, 11th month, 11th day and the 11th hour that’s what I will be thinking about.