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May 13, 2005

Remembering Canada’s Veterans

This week Canada is remembering Canada’s sons and daughters who were involved in WWII 60 years ago and in previous encounters.  The newspaper, radio and television are full of memories of the pride, anger and hope of those years.   

Vic Fideli, the Mayor of North Bay where 3,000 citizens enlisted and 150 did not return read a proclamation naming May 8th 2005 “A Day For Our Veterans” and recognized the Canadian government’s “Year of the Veteran” 2005.  There was a Rememberance Ceremony at Memorial Park on Sunday, May 8 held by the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 23.  A weeks ceremony in the Netherlands celebrated Canada’ contribution in the liberation there.  Many veterans, their families, party leaders etc. attended.  The North Bay Algonquin Regiment sent a plaque with the regiments badge and motto to Welbers when our soldiers made a special contribution over 2 brutal days in the fall of 1944. 

North Bay Nugget headlines

Some of the Nugget’s coverage from 60 years ago when 1 million German soldiers laid down their arms helps tell the story of the wars end and the past in North Bay. 

North Bay Nugget:

“It’s all over!  It’s all over; It’s all over!”

So the shouts went from one pedestrian to another on Main street this morning when word was received of the unconditional surrender of Germany to the United Nations.

“It’s all over now! It’s all over!  It’s all over!”

Joyous, happy shouting intermingled with occasional cheers and gladsome laughter that in many instances bordered ‘on the hysterical’ as the news awaited so long became a reality.

And all of it voiced during a gradually rising of crescendo of bells, sirens and whistles.

Sirens at the city fire hall were brought into play at the same time that the bell on the city hall was rung to announce to those who might not have known previously that Germany had accepted unconditional surrender.  Other bells added to the clamor.

The horns on cars and trucks added their share to the general hub-bub and almost at the same time whistles on engines on the railroads broke into noise-making.

Within a matter of minutes stores and offices were being closed for a two-day period and the whole business section of Main street and adjoining blocks assumed a holiday air and attire.

“Closed” signs appeared on some doors. Flags and bunting were attached to appropriate pieces at the front of business places.

More and more people, unable to remain indoors at such a time, thronged to Main street and presented a happy milling effect although the number was not at first sufficiently large to impede either sidewalk or highway traffic.

And then the closing of the schools, releasing hundreds of youngsters, added to the gradually growing congestion on many streets as they scurried from block to block to see all that was to be seen at that time in anticipation of having things to report when they reached their homes.” 

The New Canadian War Museum Opens on V.E. Day 

Canada’s new 136 million dollar War Museum opened on the V.E. Day weekend on the Lebreton Flats in Ottawa.  The stunning new museum is not just a new modern building that act as a memorial but is a whole new look at the history of Canadian involvement in war.  In the museum the sanitized version of the past where glory and courage were emphasized has a large added focus on the hell of war, the brutal and devastating pain and reality of war.  Hopefully it will serve as a reminder of the stupidity of war and perhaps help prevent it. 

Another look at war 

A Nugget list of War dead 60 years ago with familiar local names bring s back the human element of war touching on every nationality in North Bay.  One casualty for example was Gunner Lawrence Whiteduck which reminded me of powerful new novel Three Day road by Joseph Boylen about WWI.  I attended Gullivers’ Books celebration of independent bookstore day recently and saw a large pile of the book and bought one.  M.P. Anthony Rota was present at the event as was Vic Fideli to cut the cake and read a proclamation.  Research indicates that good bookstores play a key role in the health of a community and are the main source of income for local authors. 

I couldn’t put Three Day road down.  It is a brilliantly written interwoven story of the life of two Cree young men growing up, going to war, and the effects of the war o them.  The book is inspired by the life of Francis Pegahmagabow from the parry Sound band who killed over 300 Germans and saved hundreds of Canadian and other lives.  He was the most devoted native soldier in WWII.  He went on to be a great leader in the rise of native rights in Ontario and Canada.  I reviewed Adrian Hayes’ book Pegahmagabow Legendary Warrior – Forgotten Hero (2003) here in December 2003

Three Day Road is a mesmerizing story told by a Cree woman from James Bay who lives off the land and her nephew Xavier.  The dramatic, unblinking, shocking, beautifully researched book provides insight into the native way of life and life I the trenches in WWI.  Even though none of those veterans survive their story ????? in this moving book.  Check the Internet for more about the book. 

Whether by discussion at home or with a veteran or by reading or visiting a museum this is a time to remember the wars of the past, our contributions and how to prevent war in the future.

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