Like most Canadians, I think of war as rather a remote thing. It has been a long time since a war was fought on Canadian soil.
Oh there has been the odd skirmish, rebellions in the Canadian west in 1870 and 1885 as well as in both Upper and Lower Canada (now Ontario and Quebec) in 1837, Fenian raids in the 1860s, but the last external conflict fought on Canadian soil was the War of 1812, which ended a couple of centuries ago. When we have gone to war it has been a matter of sending Canada’s soldiers overseas, which we did in the Boer War, both World Wars, Korea and numerous United Nations and NATO operations since.
We have our war memorials, but they are relatively few in number. Each town has a cenotaph to commemorate those who died in the two world wars, but usually not much more than that. So walking along the banks of the Thames River in London I couldn’t help but be struck at how much war has impacted that city.
Of course I am aware from my reading of history how London suffered during the Blitz. I know that the defeat Nazi Germany took pretty much every resource the nation had – wartime food rationing continued until 1954, almost a decade after the end of the war, as the economy did not recover overnight.
We really didn’t walk very far along the Thames, just a couple of kilometres on either side of the river near the Parliament buildings as we whiled away an afternoon. The reminders of the war were everywhere, by the river and on nearby streets.
It must deeply impact a people when their country is attacked or invaded. Canadians live with a sense of security which means that the October 2014 attacks on individual soldiers by lone gunmen had an impact on the national psyche far greater than if it had been two random murders (thankfully also fairly rare here). War is something that happens somewhere else, though we understand Canadian troops may be at risk. This may be why we don’t have as many memorials as I saw in London, we haven’t felt the same level of threat. I hope we never do.