Meandering through my memories

I’ll be 76 this year and while I’m still fascinated by what the future may hold in store for me, every so often, I reflect on some of the things I’ve seen over the span of my life.

When I was born, Canada consisted of nine provinces and two territories. In 1949, Newfoundland and Labrador ceased being a British territory and joined Confederation as Canada’s tenth province. So that means the last Father of Confederation, Joey Smallwood, was alive during my lifetime. Fun fact: The call letters of every radio and television station in Canada start with the letter “C” except one. St. John’s Newfoundland station VOCM was in existence before Confederation and they kept their call letters. Today, Canada consists of ten provinces and three territories, the Northwest Territories having been split and the eastern portion is now called Nunavut. I remember the great debate over choosing Canada’s now familiar maple leaf flag. I also remember I was opposed to it at first for I had served in the military under the red ensign, but I now embrace it fully. I remember Expo ‘67, the world’s fair held in Montreal during Canada’s centennial year and the excitement throughout the country at the time. I remember the dark days of the October Crisis, when Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau (Justin’s father) invoked the War Measures Act to put an end to the bombings and kidnappings. British diplomat James Cross and Quebec’s Deputy Premier Pierre Laporte were kidnapped. Mr Cross was later released, but M Laporte was murdered. Eventually most of the FLQ members involved were arrested and served time. I remember when Canada had a female Prime Minister – Kim Campbell. Her government didn’t last long, being brought down on a non-confidence motion.

Internationally, I remember hearing and watching much from news reports. The conquest of Everest (I’ve always had one question about that: if Hillary and Tensing were the first people to climb to the summit, how did the Sherpa guides know the safest path up unless they’d done it before?; the coronation of Queen Elizabeth the Second. One memory I have of that is the nuns telling us we couldn’t sing “God Save the King” any longer and spending a good hour getting us to properly sing “God Save the Queen”. I remember the Cuban Missile Crisis. I was on leave from the army when that got serious and expected to be recalled every time the telephone rang. I remember the Kennedy Assassination and where I was (sitting at my desk at work in Toronto). The rise and later fall of the Berlin Wall and the fall of Soviet-style Communism. Man landing on the moon. I remember that when Armstrong took that small step for man, I was sitting in my car in an A&W in Scarborough Ontario.

This is but a small glimpse into my memories. I have more obviously, but won’t go into them. And, as I said back at the beginning, I can’t wait to see what lies ahead. We do live in interesting times.


So Senseless

My personal view of September 11 is “the day the madness escaped”. This week two drops of that madness landed on Canadian soil.

The first drop fell on St Jean-sur-Richelieu last Monday when Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and another soldier were run down by what has been described as a “radicalized” young man. W/O Vincent subsequently died in hospital from his injuries. The driver fled and following a police chase was shot and killed.

This past Wednesday, that second bit of madness came to earth in Ottawa, Ontario, our nation’s capital. Once again a “radicalized” person attacked a member of the military. This time Cpl Nathan Cirillo was shot five times in the back with a 30-30 Winchester as he stood guard at Canada’s National War Memorial. Cpl Cirillo did not survive. Next the shooter invaded the Houses of Parliament where he shot and injured a security guard. He then made his way toward the Parliamentary Library, followed by armed security personnel.

The Parliamentary Sergeant-at-Arms heard the gunfire, took his weapon (a 9mm if you’re curious) and stepped into the hallway. Seeing he had a clear shot at the intruder, he threw himself prone and fired at least three shots, one of which hit the shooter in the head. More on the Sergeant-at-Arms later.

Within the past three weeks I read an article that stated ISIS or ISIL had, through social media, urged these “radicalized” youth and would-be jihadists to launch individual attacks on the military, going so far as to suggest running them down. Unfortunately someone listened.

Now, back to our Sergeant-at-Arms. The post was originally created in England about 800 years ago for the express purpose of protecting Parliament. In Canada the post is currently held by Kevin Vickers, A former RCMP officer. We Canadians are more accustomed to seeing him perform his ceremonial duties, such as carrying the Mace into the House of Commons, but he also controls a security staff of about 3,000 people. He is also obviously an excellent shot.

The military has gone so far as to strongly urge – not order – personnel not to wear their uniforms unless they are going to or from work. While they are complying, many men are not happy and I don’t blame them. When I was in the army, I was proud to be a Sapper in the Royal Canadian Engineers and wore that uniform whenever circumstances allowed. And when I finished my regular service and joined the militia, I just as proudly wore the uniform of a Lance-Corporal in the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada.

Patrice Vincent and Nathan Cirillo. Remember their names. As for those who so callously ended their lives, let their names lie forgotten in the dustbin of history.

Support our troops, both at home and abroad.