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Good morning!

Apparently today some people want to celebrate Singles, Sundaes, or Social Enterprise, but most of us know better: this is the UN’s International Week of Science and Peace, and today is of course Remembrance Day.

Today, we pause to remember the sacrifices of those who have devoted themselves to military service, often putting their lives on the line or making the ultimate sacrifice. (Our US neighbours call it Veteran’s Day.) I think most provinces actually recognize today as a holiday, except for Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and Manitoba – and some institutions in those provinces are closed today just the same (NSCC and ACC, for example).  

This year, most flags at federal buildings and CdnPSEs were already flying at half-staff, since the discovery of unmarked graves at residential schools in May. After considerable debate, and consultation with veterans and Indigenous communities, it was determined that flags should be raised and re-lowered this week.

I wrote about Indigenous Veterans Day back on Monday, and I’ve been tied up at 4 different conferences since then… but promised I’d be back #LestWeForget…


Spanish Flu

Today was originally called Armistice Day, recognizing the ceasefire that (gradually) took effect on this day in 1918 – and the demobilization of soldiers that turned the Spanish flu into a worldwide pandemic. Our experiences throughout the past 19 months have been remarkably similar to those a century ago…


Century-Old Pandemic

Faded letters from WWI contain “haunting similarities to today” as soldiers wrote home about the Spanish Flu, or “grippe.” Jacqueline Carmichael devoted a whole chapter of her recent book, Heard Amid the Guns: True Stories from the Western Front, 1914-1918, to the parallels between the 2 pandemics. “100 years ago, our forebears were dealing with this very thing.” Some texts suggest 776 Canadian soldiers died of the flu – but the number was likely much higher than that. As soldiers returned home by train, the disease travelled with them. The federal Department of Health was established in 1919, largely in response to the Spanish flu pandemic.  National Post

“Armistice was a super-spreader event, because these people were so crowded and then, of course, once they started going home, they were crowded into troop ships, which exposed them further.”Jacqueline Carmichael, National Post



Veterans and Vaccines

Disease killed more soldiers than the enemy on battlefields, and the 1918 Spanish Flu took roughly half of all US military casualties in Europe. In WWII, the US Army worked with university researchers and pharmaceutical companies to develop vaccines against influenza, meningitis, pneumonia, measles, mumps and more. Soldiers “didn’t blink at the notion of taking an ‘experimental’ vaccine,” but ironically antivaxxers are now invoking the memory of those who fought and died for the “freedom” of not getting vaccinated. SK premier Scott Moe made the contrast explicit this summer when he urged residents to get vaxxed, saying “We’re not asking you to storm the beaches of Normandy.”  Regina Leader-Post

“We’re not asking you to storm the beaches of Normandy.”Scott Moe, Premier of Saskatchewan




100 Years of Poppies

As an English major myself, I admit it is gratifying to think that what feels like a “timeless” tradition connecting poppies to Remembrance Day was actually prompted by a Guelph poet’s metaphor (John Macrae, “In Flanders Fields,” obviously). This year marks the 100th anniversary of the poppy’s adoption as the flower of remembrance by the Great War Veterans’ Association in 1921…


History of the Poppy

“The poppy is pinned to our history,” observes historian Tim Cook, which “emerged as a symbol from the killing fields of the Western Front during the First World War.” Despite periodic “grumblings” that the poppy was a mere weed, or a “pagan flower” linked to opium, John Macrae’s poem became a worldwide phenomenon, and the image of the poppy was used to promote Victory Bonds and to recruit more Canadian soldiers. Poppies flourished in Flanders’ Fields and elsewhere, where the rubble and debris left by WWI bombardments infused the ground with fertilizing lime – literally new life growing because of destruction. Poppies were classical symbols of eternal sleep, from King Tut to ancient Greek mythology. 100 years ago, in 1921, the Imperial Order of the Daughters of Empire and Anna Guèrin (“the poppy lady of France”) persuaded Canada’s Great War Veterans Association to adopt the poppy as a symbol of remembrance, at a convention in Port Arthur (now Thunder Bay). Initially hand-crafted in silk by veterans, official Legion poppies have been plastic in Canada for decades.  Globe & Mail  |  CTV

“The poppy is pinned to our history… a flower infused with tears for loved ones long gone and sadness for humanity’s flaws that lead to war.”Tim Cook, Historian, Canadian War Museum



Seed-Paper Poppies

To keep plastic poppies out of the landfill, students and profs at Fanshawe College developed a sustainable poppy made from construction paper laminated with oriental poppy seeds. (Plant the poppy and it will flower in the spring as “a symbol of hope.”) Design prof Wendy Sperry and her team distributed 500+ “top secret mission” educational kits to 30 local primary schools, including lesson plans and materials to make the poppies. The project was a partnership with Fanshawe’s Military-Connected Campus initiative, the Royal Canadian Legion, and a number of corporate donors, and may expand provincewide in 2022.  CBC  |  London Free Press  |  Interrobang


Counterfeit Poppies

The Royal Canadian Legion is frustrated by a “dramatic increase” this year in the sale of unauthorized poppy merchandise (clothing, accessories, flags and pins), often from overseas or US websites. This year, they have seen “500 plus cases,” compared to about 50 in 2020. Although the merchandise, advertised on social media, often claims to support veterans, the sellers are not affiliated with the Legion, which owns the Canadian copyright. The only officially authorized website selling poppy merchandise is  CTV


NFT Poppies

The Royal Canadian Legion launched a digital poppy campaign in 2018, offering digital poppy badges that could be customized in memory of a Canadian hero. This year for the poppy’s 100th anniversary, “immortal” limited edition NFTs are available (naturally) with 3D replicas of real poppies picked from Flanders Fields. “118,000 names of fallen Canadian soldiers grace its petals and are linked to the blockchain, with 10 notable fallen featured across the NFTs – immortalizing the memory of those who fought for our freedoms.”



Preserving History

Remembrance Day engages historians, archivists, documentary filmmakers, and researchers to help bring the past into the present…


Brock U Library’s Archives include hundreds of WWI and II records and artifacts relating to the Niagara Region, many of them digitized, which “remind us of a time when people and organizations made sacrifices and pitched in to do their part.”  Brock News

UBC is one of many CdnPSEs offering journalists access to faculty experts in WWI history, the war poets, international conflict, Indigenous veterans, internment and redress, and more.  UBC News

uCalgary retired librarian Saundra Lipton began research around 2011 that led to “She Also Serves,” a website documenting stories of 36 Jewish women in the Canadian Armed Forces. “What bothered me was, that when I could find these women’s obituaries, very often there was no mention of their service.” “In a world where antisemitism is again raising its ugly head, I think it’s important for us to remember and celebrate those contributions.”  uCalgary

Dalhousie U shared the stories of 5 Dalhousian WWI veterans last year, and this year shared the story of an Annapolis Valley farm boy (and NSAC grad) who lost his life at the Battle of Somme in 1916. (Just months after deployment, he contracted influenza and spent 2 weeks fighting it in an English hospital.)  Dal News

“The sun is shining and birds are singing, and all reminds me of a spring Sunday at home – except away to my left is the roar of the guns.” Glenn Stephens Ells, NSAC grad, April 1916


Kwantlen Polytechnic U history students have created a video archive (“KPU Remembers”) profiling the experiences of 8 individual soldiers in WWI, based on diaries, letters, and government reports.  KPU

Mount St Vincent U has 2 researchers whose work seeks to inform the experiences of veterans and military families. Maya Eichler is director of the Centre for Social Innovation and Community Engagement in Military Affairs at MSVU, and researches issues of gender, sexual violence, and veterans policy. Family Studies prof Deborah Norris researches the challenges faced by military families and spouses, and helped shape the Halifax Military Family Resource Centre.  MSVU

U New Brunswick has been sharing reflections on the impacts of war through stories told by members of the UNB community, including wartime service of Black Canadians and the stories of 2SLGBTQIA+ veterans.  UNB Remembers

“We have a saying in the military that the nature of war does not change. I think, arguably, the same can well be said for remembrance. It is essentially a struggle to come to grips with the reality of loss and how to pay tribute to those who lost their lives.”Captain Christopher Lardner,UNB Grad


uRegina president Jeff Keshen penned a particularly memorable reflection on Remembrance Day that invokes Saving Private Ryan, his late father’s service in the RCAF, and the war memorials and research supporting veterans being conducted on uRegina’s campuses. “We owe it to those who came before us to be good people committed to building a kind, just, equitable, and compassionate society. That is the future they envisioned for us, and it is the future we have a responsibility to work toward.”  uRegina

Vancouver Island U published a 51-min memorial video in 2019 for the Nanaimo soldiers who gave their lives in WWI and WWII.

Vancouver Island U BEd student Danielle Cossey-Sutton is researching women’s experiences of trauma on the front lines in WWI, through letters in VIU’s Canadian Letters and Images Project.  Nanaimo Bulletin 



Engaging the Present

Of course, higher education institutions not only preserve history, but engage with the present and shape the future. Here are some examples of CdnPSE engagement with veterans and the community this Remembrance Day…

uAlberta launched a 2-year “Veteran-Friendly Campus” pilot program in February, to welcome veteran students with specialized PLAR, mentorship, study groups, advising, occupational therapy and mental health supports. A VFC “Navigator” will be hired to assist prospective students. The project, funded by the AB government and developed with the Heroes in Mind Advocacy and Research Consortium, hopes to develop a model for other ABpses.  uAlberta  |  Folio


Dawson College grad (and tattoo artist) Caitlin Lindstrom-Milne was chosen to design the Royal Canadian Mint’s $20 silver Remembrance Day coin this year, “A Wreath of Remembrance.” (Sorry, the run of 7,500 is already sold out.)  Global  |  YouTube

uSaskatchewan has announced a free online course about substance abuse, peer support, and connections (a “PAWSitive” toolkit) for service dog organizations working with veterans diagnosed with PTSD.  uSask  |  YouTube




For the second year in a row, most CdnPSEs are marking Remembrance Day virtually, or with cautious outdoor ceremonies. Here’s a sampling of the announcements I spotted before press time…

Indoor ceremonies are being held (typically with mandatory vaccinations and masks, and usually also livestreamed online) at Acadia U, UBC, Western U, and Wilfrid Laurier U.

Outdoor campus ceremonies are planned at uCalgary, uGuelph, and Royal Military College (and likely many more).

Virtual ceremonies are already queuing up on YouTube and other platforms, and will go live later today by Brock U, Centennial College, uGuelph, Huron UC, Lakehead U, McMaster U Alumni, Niagara College, Royal Roads U, Ryerson U, St Clair College, Sheridan College, and York U. (No doubt many other CdnPSEs as well.)




There will be no shortage of examples of Remembrance Day ceremonies and memorial videos today, like this 22-min ceremony from Memorial…


Ceremony of Remembrance

Memorial U of NL was of course named in an act of remembrance, and even though the campus is closed today, a ceremony of remembrance was held yesterday and streamed virtually, and is prominently featured on MUN’s homepage. The ceremony includes participation from members of the Labrador Institute, Grenfell Campus, Marine Institute, Harlow Campus and Signal Hill Campus communities.  YouTube


“They gave their tomorrows so we could have our today.”Vianne Timmons, President, Memorial U of NL




As always, thanks for reading! Have a peaceful Remembrance Day, whether you’re at work or not.

And in memory of our veterans’ sacrifices, encourage everyone around you to get vaccinated…


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