This Remembrance Day, We Begin with Why we Remember
“I remember him leaning in and asking why I would want to forget. ‘Memory,’ [Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel] said, ‘wasn’t just for ... survivors. The people who ask us to forget are not our friends. Memory not only honors those we lost but also gives us strength... Nothing good comes of forgetting; remember, so that my past doesn’t become your future’....”
Journalist Sonari Glinton,
“History, as nearly no one seems to know, is not merely something to be read. And it does not refer merely, or even principally, to the past. It could scarcely be otherwise, since it is to history that we owe our frames of reference, our identities, and our aspirations.” - James Baldwin
Remembrance Day is a day that invites Canadians to gather together in a collective act of listening, acknowledgment, reflection, mourning and healing. It is a day to honour those whose sacrifices and whose lives during - and after - war enabled many of the rights and freedoms we hold today. It is also a day to reflect on the immeasurable costs of war - both on the battlefield and off - as we recommit to the hard work of peace, justice and equity.
At Facing History and Ourselves, we ask ourselves, “How do we help students (and ourselves) to remember more than names, dates, and battles? How do we help students to connect to, and understand our shared humanity: the people behind the names, the lives, ideas, and cultures lost and reclaimed, and the legacies that extend beyond the signing of a treaty that signals the end of a war?”
We hope this list of resources helps to serve as a starting point for you as you honour Remembrance Day in a way that builds a better tomorrow.
- 5 Remembrance Day Lesson Ideas that Deepen Student Learning (first published 11/2014)
Making Remembrance Day Meaningful for our Students (published 11/2015)
Remembering Why we Fight
- Bring Claire Baum’s story of liberation to your students. Her testimony as a Holocaust survivor, testimony from soldiers & their loved ones deepen our students intellectual & emotional connections to those who fought and why they fought.
Remembering that We Fought Together
- On Remembrance Day, we have an opportunity to remember that the cost for freedom was paid for and won through the sacrifice of members from diverse communities that comprise Canada today. In spite of experiences of segregation and inequality at home and in military service, Black, Indigenous, Chinese, Jewish and female soldiers, Veterans and volunteers, served together as Canadians. Head to Veterans Affairs Canada ‘People & stories’ to learn the stories of those who have served Canada.
- Hugh Burnett was a Black WWII veteran who demonstrated courage both in and beyond the war. Burnett fought for Canada & returned from the war to fight for civil rights by challenging discrimination in segregated ‘Jim Crow Ontario'.
- November 8 is Indigenous Veterans Day. Use this resource and the videos included to honour the important contributions made by First Nations, Inuit and Métis Veterans in service to Canada.
- Learn about Indigenous war heroes such as Edwin Victor Cook who was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal in 1918 and the many others whose chests proudly bore the medals they so justly deserved
Remembering the Costs and Legacies of War
Gain insight into the death and destruction of World Word I with firsthand accounts from former soldiers through The Brutal Realities of World War I and view and analyze John Singer Sargent’s memorial to World I, the painting Gassed here: Commemorating the War
- Soldiers fought for freedom from tyranny and dehumanization. For some, this fight was ongoing when they returned home. Learn about the discrimination against Indigenous veterans and their return home- many lost their status and didn't obtain benefits available to veterans.
- As we think about the cost of war, Remembrance Day also gives us an opportunity to remember those who were unjustly sent to internment camps and the impact that has had on communities and on our nation.
- Facilitate a close reading on the following quote:
- We are reminded of the words of Nuremberg prosecutor Ben Ferencz: “The only way to stop atrocities is to stop war making. There has never been and never will be a war without all of the atrocities that I have seen in war.” In this light, “no war is won,” so we must do what we can for peace and justice.
- Discuss ‘how & why should we remember the past?’ through analyzing & creating memorials.
- To help guide your discussion on remembering the past, analyze existing memorials through Veteran Affairs Canada's online database of memorials and war cemeteries in Canada and around the world that honour Canadians who have served.
- We remember the legacy of wars & the commitments to ensure these tragedies do not happen again. Learn about the “impressively multicultural but imperfectly multicultural” Universal Declaration of Human Rights - the first in a succession of rights declarations
If you are looking for commemorative events, please see this Veteran Affairs Canada landing page.