'Shouldn't Remembrance Day be more than a performative action?': Canadians question government's silence over Gaza 'injustices'

Canadians wonder if staying silent on the current crisis in Gaza is the best way to honour war veterans who fought for their freedom.

Canadians across the nation are observing Remembrance Day by paying their respects to veterans who spent decades in service through ceremonies at war memorials and cenotaphs all over the country.

Like before, 2023 is no different in acknowledging the sacrifices made for the freedom Canadians enjoy today by remembering the people who served and continue to serve the country during times of war, conflict and peace.

However, Remembrance Day this year falls against the backdrop of an ongoing war in the Middle East, a conflict that has divided Canadians into supporters of either Israel or Palestine and resulted in an increasing number of hate crimes against Muslims and Jews all over Canada.

The impact of the devastation unfolding in Gaza is felt so strongly that many Canadians are unsure if observing Remembrance Day still carries the same value it did given the current humanitarian crisis in the Middle East and how intensely it affects everyone here at home.

The On Canada Project (OCP) reflected on a very similar thought a day before Remembrance Day on the social media platform, Threads.

"Is it just us, or is there something off about our governments and leaders in Canada observing Remembrance Day while actively choosing to deny and be complicit in an ongoing genocide?" the OCP wrote in a post.

In a follow up Thread, the OCP explained its question is in no way meant to discourage people from observing Remembrance Day, rather it should encourage them to use the lessons from past wars to call for an end to the current conflict between Israel and Hamas.

The push for serious consideration over observing the memorial day by the OCP comes at a time when leaders across the country share messages on remembering the sacrifices of war veterans and soldiers who fought for Canadians to lead a free life.

One of whom was Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Marc Miller, who posted a rather ambiguous message on social media on Friday.

"Tomorrow is Remembrance Day. In the face of a horrific rise in antisemitism, let us never forget the reasons We Remember," Miller wrote on Instagram.

Miller's post drew criticism from other Canadian social media users, including the OCP, over not denouncing "all kinds of hate" in his post.

"Wait, what? Are you actually just ignoring the rise of Islamophobia? What's going on here, do you just not care about all Canadians? Just some? How are we supposed to trust leaders when they pick and choose which of us domestically that they give a sh*t about. This is so freaking gross," replied the OCP.

"Very sad to see a rise in antisemitism and Islamophobia in Canada. You should denounce all kinds of hate in your posts," added one Instagram user.

A third user felt Miller's Remembrance Day post was ironic in that it doesn't call for an end to the tragic events in Gaza.

"The irony of posting about Remembrance Day, while NOT calling for a ceasefire or end to a genocide. But by all means, post about veterans and what they fought for. #Shamefulcanada," one reply read.

Similar backlash was seen against Canadian ministers elsewhere in the days leading up to Remembrance Day.

In Montreal, Member of Parliament for Mount Royal Anthony Housefather was confronted by lawyer and journalist Dimitri Lascaris on similar grounds.

Ontario's Minister of Education Stephen Lecce, who shared a post on X — aka Twitter — honouring those who "died for our freedom," too, was urged to reflect on the thousands of Palestinian lives lost as well.

Calling for a ceasefire in Gaza on Remembrance Day will genuinely honour veterans

Continuing with its original Threads, the OCP made an argument on how the sacrifices of the past can help save the present while promising a peaceful future.

"Especially since Israel is violating various international laws and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights — both of which were created after the World Wars to prevent further violence and harm, particularly the loss of civilian life," the OCP said.

"'Lest we forget' and 'never again' aren't just pretty phrases and hashtags — they're words with profound meaning," the OCP added in a follow-up Thread. "It is disturbing to see our leaders use those words and wear a poppy, only to disregard what they represent."

The OCP concluded, insisting on a renewed approach at honouring the legacy of our veterans, by calling on Canadians to make Remembrance Day more than a "performative action."