Stepping away from what is typical practice in Ontario, the national offices of the Anglican Church of Canada will close for Remembrance Day on Nov. 11.
In a memo to staff, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, wrote that in light of violent conflicts happening globally and the recent deaths of Corporal Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent here in Canada, “it seems to me that November 11th should not be a ‘business as usual’ day with only a two-minute pause for silence at 11 a.m.”
Remembrance Day is a statutory holiday across Canada, except in the provinces of Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec and the Northwest Territories.
Although it is not an official stat holiday in Nova Scotia, Nov. 11 is observed as a holiday and the primate told the Anglican Journal that Remembrance Day in his home province is, in fact, “huge in terms of what happened in schools, what happened at cenotaphs. Parishes that I served in, we were always involved in Remembrance Day, not only at the cenotaph but in churches.”
When he moved to Ontario, Hiltz said he was shocked to find that the day was “not a holiday and that it was, even in the church, business as usual,” though he noted that many parishes observe a Remembrance Sunday that week.
In past years, the primate said staff have been invited to a Remembrance Day service held in the Chapel of the Holy Apostles in the Toronto offices of General Synod, but this year, he thought, required something else. “My gut says, and my heart says, that I think people, whether they take it or not is up to them, but my sense is that we need to give them some space, some opportunity to do what they will to remember.” He added that he expects record numbers of Canadians will be moved to attend local Remembrance Day services or watch the ceremony at the National War Memorial in Ottawa.
This year’s ceremonies will mark the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War. Many people think of Remembrance Day primarily in terms of the First and Second World Wars, but Hiltz noted that there are also now waves of Canadian veterans from more recent conflicts such as in Bosnia and Afghanistan to think of, as well as the Canadian Forces who have just joined the war in Iraq.
“I just think that this year, Remembrance Day is going to have a very different feel about it,” the primate said. “I mean, we are at war. None of us like to say it, but that’s the truth. We are part of an allied force that is at war to rid the world of the terrorist activities of ISIS, and we’ve had two Canadian soldiers die on Canadian soil within the last two weeks,” he said. In Cirillo’s case, “his blood was spilled right on the tomb of the unknown soldier,” he noted. “How can you not have a heart and give people some space, not to be expected to do everything they normally do on a day like that?”
The primate added that he believes there is a “sacredness about Remembrance Day that we can’t lose.”
Hiltz said that he knows “some people wrestle with all the pageantry…on Remembrance Day and struggle with whether or not it actually glorifies war,” and suggested they might want to observe that in their own quiet ways. He said he has always remembered an essay written by a young schoolgirl for a project run by the Royal Canadian Legion. “She said that Remembrance Day should be a festival of peace, thanking God for the sacrifice of so many so that we can have peace, praying for those who continue to serve our country and the freedom of the world, and praying for that day when there will be no more war.”
In his memo to General Synod staff, he encouraged everyone to wear a poppy and attend a Remembrance Day ceremony or watch the ceremonies from the National War Memorial in Ottawa. “With all Canadians let us remember all victims of war, the veterans of all the conflicts in which Canada has been engaged, and all our men and women in uniform today. And let us be united in prayer for peace among all peoples.”