Fewer people plan to participate in Remembrance Day ceremonies or wear poppies this year, according to a poll from Historica Canada that also suggests knowledge of Canadian military history is dwindling.
The poll found that roughly 71 per cent of respondents will wear a poppy, down from 85 per cent last year; and 28 per cent of people will attend ceremonies either online or in person, down from 41 per cent last year.
Anthony Wilson-Smith of Historica Canada says those findings are understandable, given global pandemic, but the bigger issue, not attributable to COVID-19, is the declining knowledge of military history.
The poll conducted by Ipsos found that four in ten Canadians feel they know more about American military history than that of Canada — climbing from one-third of Canadians last year.
Meanwhile 16 per cent of Canadians never learned about Canada’s key conflicts in school — including the First World War, Second World War, Korean War and October Crisis.
It also found that 45 per cent of respondents think they know about the history of Black, Indigenous, and racialized groups in Canadian military service, but only 14 per cent could correctly identify the country’s only all-Black battalion - the No. 2 Construction Battalion.
Wilson-Smith says this year is a particularly good opportunity to brush up on Canadian military history, in part because of COVID-19.
“The pandemic, which calls for a greater sense of unity, which puts people under unprecedented conditions no one’s ever really lived through before, I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s like a wartime condition, but it calls on some of the same qualities,” he said.
“Remembrance Day has always been a time for both reflecting on loss and also, frankly, on our good fortune. And this year is a year of remembering that we have lived through difficult times before — in fact more difficult during 1939 to 45 than we’re living through today.”
It’s also a poignant Remembrance Day given the toll the pandemic has taken on veterans.
It’s difficult for many veterans to apply for federal support this year because they can’t see doctors. And those who have applied face long wait times to find out if they qualify for assistance as the government slowly works its way through a backlog of claims.
Veterans’ organizations such as the Royal Canadian Legion are also struggling financially, closing branches across the country while waiting for federal assistance.
Wilson-Smith said those looking to brush up on their Canadian military history can check out resources from Historica, or those provided by Heritage Canada.
Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press
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