November 25, 2006
Another show of support for those who sacrificed for our well-being...
Please consider the purpose and sentiment invoked by The Dominion Institute's intitiative (see http://www.dominion.ca/petition/index.php) desribed in the news article below. The Institute will send the petition on behalf of its signatories to the Prime Minister of Canada on December 11, 2006.
From: The Canadian Press
State funeral sought for last WWI veteran
Updated Sun. Nov. 5 2006 8:59 PM ET
TORONTO -- Canada's last First World War veteran should be given a state funeral to help honour the pledge that Canadians will never forget the sacrifices made during the Great War, says the Dominion Institute, which is launching a petition Monday to drum up support for the cause.
There are three surviving veterans - 105-year-old Dwight (Percy) Wilson and Lloyd Clemett and John Babcock, both 106 - and they are our last living link to the sacrifices and triumphs of the war, in which 619,636 Canadians served and 66,655 died between 1914 and 1918, said Rudyard Griffiths, executive director of the Dominion Institute.
A state funeral would ensure Canadians pause to honour all those who fought, he said.
"An event like a state funeral, a major national commemoration, is a small step but an important one in the direction of renewing our commitment never to forget," he said.
"People will say state funerals are only for prime ministers or former governor generals, well I think if there ever was a time to cast off our Canadian understatement when it comes to celebrating history, this is that moment."
He said other countries have been quick to honour their war dead but Canada has never done enough.
Last year's passing of Clarence (Clare) Laking, believed to be the last surviving Great War veteran to have seen action, was barely on Canadians' radar screens, Griffiths said.
"I think it was a bit of a comment on the country that his passing was really not observed, other than the obligatory obituary in the newspapers and a press release from the government," he said.
Griffiths said he envisions a state funeral being religious, held in a church according to the denomination of the veteran.
"We in the 21st century live in a very agnostic or a very secular society but I think a state funeral would be very important to capture the religious undertone of the First World War," he said.
"So many of those Canadians who fought and died in the First World War were fighting for an idea of a more generous, and what they perceived as a kind of Christian ideal of equality, of peoples' equality, of nations' equality, or races' equality."
He said he's not advocating the idea for religious reasons, but believes it would show an appreciation for what Canada was like in 1914 to 1918.
"It speaks to the reality of the experience," he said.
Griffiths said he doesn't know if the veterans are religious men and hasn't contacted the families about the idea of a state funeral.
But he said every detail would ultimately be up to the families if a state funeral was offered.
"Our policy here is at the end of the day, this should be the decision of the families, of these men, and it should be up to them to decide," he said.
"What's important here is the gesture and it is within the power of the prime minister to grant a state funeral to anyone."
Digital signatures for the petition will be collected at the Dominion Institute's website, and organizers are hoping to present thousands to the government.
A spokeswoman for Veteran Affairs said the government does have a plan for when the last First World War veteran passes away but it does not include a state funeral.
Instead, the government is looking at a way of honouring all First World War veterans.
The government is also considering military funerals for the remaining three veterans, if their families wish to have one.
Copyright 2006 - The Canadian Press