The180·The 180

A service for people who don't feel welcome at Remembrance Day

The flags displayed at cenotaphs across the country are flags Canadians fought under, like the Maple Leaf, the Red Ensign, and the Union Jack. But to former Armed Forces member Stephen Gallard, that can leave some people feeling left out, or unwelcome. And he argues that needs to change.
Detail from a First World War recruitment poster at auction in 2014. (Matt Cardy/Getty)

Over 22 years in the military, Stephen Gallard's feelings about Remembrance Day have changed.

It was once a chance to wear a uniform and receive praise, but now, Gallard feels it's too much about the victors in particular wars, evidenced by the Canadian and British flags flown at cenotaphs across the country.

Gallard is a former Armed Forces member and now the liaison between the Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Edmonton, and the The South Alberta Light Horse Regiment.

Along with the Holy Trinity Anglican Church and Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, he is arranging a special service the day before Remembrance Day for all those who might not feel welcome at typical ceremonies. People like German-Canadians, or people affected by wars that Canada had no part in.

Stephen Gallard. (CBC)

"Trinity Lutheran Church has a very large German population there. And by their age and how they react to other people like me, who look like soldiers, you can tell what they were doing in 1945. Whether by choice or not. But they were loyal German people. Not Nazis. Then you look at other kids, childhood soldiers. They don't get an option to whether they want to be there or not. So, Remembrance Day is a mixed thing for them. Yes, you're remembering war, but you cannot miss the fact that right in front of you are victors."

Detail from a First World War recruitment poster at auction in 2014. (Matt Cardy/Getty)

The evening before Remembrance Day, Gallard, the Holy Trinity Anglican and Holy Trinity Lutheran churches will hold a multi-faith service focused on reflection, healing, and remembrance. The churches held a similar ceremony five years ago. 

It gives these people around the same time as Remembrance Day an option. So that they can, in their own way, remember.- Stephen Gallard

"We had about twenty-odd people there. We had one lady who told us how in the '40s she spent most of World War 2 as a kid avoiding the Nazis, only then having to avoid the Russians, before finally moving to Canada. Another lady had just lost her son-in-law in Afghanistan, while we were at that stage where people were still questioning what it was about. But at the end of it, the one thing that prompted me to try to get this done was a German lady, who was born right after the second world war, we're talking the rubble, the smell of cordite still hanging in the air. And all her life she's had a real tough time forgiving her country for the horrors they did. And at the end of this service she was able to get up and say this is the first time in her life that she could actually talk about it and let it go."

Gallard invites anyone who feels excluded or left out of Remembrance Day ceremonies to the service, and hopes that Remembrance Day itself can become more inclusive in the future.

"It gives these people around the same time as Remembrance Day an option. So that they can, in their own way, remember. And I'm hoping one day it allows for people to come wandering out of the woodwork. Maybe they're a German, maybe from an African country. And they can stand proud knowing that war happened to them, and they were able to deal with it... I don't want to see Remembrance Day replaced, I want to see the spirit of it come back, and focus more on that, more so than - hey god was on our side, we won."

If you are interested in attending the service, you can find more information here.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?