Lest We Forget


There I was on a recent trip to Jamaica, having a drink at the pool bar, when I noticed about 20 Canadian soldiers walking to their rooms to call it a day. It got me thinking about why they were there. I quickly realized that they were there to defend the freedom that we enjoy every day. Whether it is fighting in wars, or peace-keeping missions, Canadian soldiers are looking after us Canadians.

Many of our parents, and the Tamil community in general, do a great job of ensuring that Tamil Canadians don’t forget their roots. We hear stories from back home, we frequent temples, and most importantly, we understand the struggles of Tamils back home.  While we stay connected with our roots in Sri Lanka, many Tamil-Canadians have gone on to do great things here in Canada as well. There are Tamil men and women in the Canadian Forces, there is a Tamil Member of Parliament, and a significant number of Tamils who are either integral parts of large corporations or have contributed to economic development through the operation of small businesses. Although we are unique in our ways, we have become a part of Canada and it has undeniably become a part of us.

This is why it is important to take a step back and understand that we live in a country where we have political freedom and economic opportunity that many around the world — including other Tamils — would die for.  However this political freedom and economic opportunity does come at a cost—the fallen and wounded soldiers who have or are continuing to fight on our behalf.  These men and women put themselves in harm’s way every day to protect you and me.

November 11th marks Remembrance Day in Canada.  It is meant to be a day during which we honor fallen soldiers, and show our support and loyalty to men and women in the Canadian Forces. During World War I, John McCrae — a Lieutenant Colonel — wrote a poem titled “In Flanders Fields” after watching one of his friends die in the war. The poem refers to a vast, dry land where bright red poppies grow in cemeteries where the casualties of war lie. Since then, the red poppy has gone on to symbolize our fallen soldiers.

Seeing the soldiers in Jamaica made me proud to be Canadian, a country where we believe in equal rights, freedom for all, and is a land of opportunity.  Each soldier was wearing a red poppy to pay their respects and at the same time identify themselves as Canadians. I encourage all Tamil-Canadians to proudly wear a poppy on Remembrance Day, and throughout this month, because we too are Canadians indebted to those who have made sacrifices on our behalf.

—Thay Shanmugaratnam

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