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Demilitarize McGill’s Remembrance Day protest causes controversy on campus

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On Tuesday, Nov. 11, Demilitarize McGill hosted a rally protesting McGill University’s Remembrance Day ceremonies.

The assembly protested on the steps of the Redpath Museum across McGill’s Remembrance Day ceremonies, which were being held on Lower Field.

According to a statement issued by Demilitarize McGill, the aim of the rally was to raise awareness for the consequences of the Canadian military’s involvement in wars, both past and present.

“This morning’s action centred on sharing facts about Canada’s role in warfare that tend to go unmentioned each Nov.11,” the statement reads. “Remembrance Day […] is an exercise in selective memory, organized to enforce the forgetting of any element of war that conflicts with the story the Canadian state wants to tell about itself.”

According to Mona Luxion, a member of Demilitarize McGill, the organization’s opposition is due to a demand for accountability.

“It is not remembrance itself that we object to […] but the creation of idealized myths about the purpose and effects of Canada’s wars,” Luxion said. “If Remembrance Day is to be a true remembrance of the cost of war, we must be able to hold the facts of imperialism, war profiteering, sexual assault, civilian death, and torture in our minds at the same time as we think of the Canadian soldiers who have died. Without that perspective, Remembrance Day ceremonies [dresses] up the brutality, horror, and profound inequality of Canada’s modern-day and historic wars.”

The rally has sparked controversial remarks on social media outlets.

In an open letter to Demilitarize McGill that was published on Facebook, Ben Reedijk, former McGill student and SSMU Councillor explained that the Remembrance Day protest had changed Demilitarize McGill’s public image for the worse.

“In the eyes of the public […it is] no longer the group that objects to for-profit weapons development in public institutions,” Reedijk wrote. “Instead, [it is] the group that is willing to disrespect seniors and other veterans who risked and gave their lives for their country [….] This group demonstrated a remarkable degree of callousness, selfishness and immaturity.”

President of Conservative McGill McKenzie Kibler, U3 Arts, stressed the importance of remembering all the lives lost in past wars.

“During World War I, 363 McGillians died, and 289 died fighting in World War II,” Kibler said. “Death and the consequences of war are serious things. Remembrance Day is about the loss of all life for all those involved, which includes the victims of war. It is not a statement of civil-military relations [but] about remembering that it happened.”

A student source who wished to remain anonymous echoed these views.

“I’m not against students protesting issues they deem important,” he said. “However, Remembrance Day is a day of respect for troops. A day many Canadians […] use to remember fallen family members and friends who had died in service for their country is not the right time to protest military-related research at McGill.”

Christopher Antila, a research assistant in music research, stated that while he supported soldiers doing what they believed in, he also thought that the public should critically examine the message of Remembrance Day.

“[Remembrance Day] is related to only a small portion of the actual realities of war, and war is a very complicated thing that we can’t really understand,” Antila said. “I don’t think it’s disrespectful to examine what happens [….] If one of the things we value is supposedly democracy […then] that requires […] a discussion of policies.”

During the rally, a member of the Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) approached the protesters, but did not disperse them. According to members of the university administration, McGill was not involved with the SPVM’s interaction with the Demilitarize McGill rally.

This article was edited November 12, 2014.

  • Bill

    How is this group funded? Can its funding be revoked? Can we have a referendum? This is disgusting “activism.”

    • Shane Caldwell

      I don’t think it’s appropriate to call for a group’s defunding. As disappointed as I was with the protesters, they are within their rights to do so. Just as we’re within our rights to criticise.

      Condemn actions, not people or groups.

      • Bill

        Last week they disrupted a lecture at the law faculty, which is directly affecting other students’ learning. Why shouldn’t they have to fight for their funding? See if they can prove their worth.

        • Shane Caldwell

          Hmm, I wasn’t aware of that incident. Disappointing.

          I’ll still defend their right to be heard, but of course that has to balance the right of others to be heard as well.

          It would be nice to see the group take a more conciliatory approach in their actions. Hold a public debate. Lobby the administration on policies. Tone down the rhetoric a little and work towards constructive solutions.

          • Jesse

            They also recently attempted to pass an amendment to one of their resolutions at the GA, after the vast majority of people had left (it was like 11pm) condemning Canada, the USA and Israel before having to withdraw it due to what was effectively pressure from the SSMU executive board

          • Jesse

            This was after a motion to quite similar to the proposed amendment was postponed indefinitely.

  • SHE DOESNT EVEN GO HERE

    Ben Reedjik – you do not live in Montreal and you do not go to McGill anymore, so let it go. The Tribune should know better than to go running to alumni who will gladly stick their nose into everything just to stir shit up

    • PriyaVassi

      Actually most of us alumni are busy hustling to attempt to get a job in this shit economy. A reality all McGill students, even the most self-aggrandizing and self-important, will eventually face.

  • Jim

    This is horrible journalism. The emphasis, measured by the length of the reporting and words use to report, is decidely against the actions of demilitarize McGill. The journalist doesn`t even give Demilitarize McGill the dignity of showing they had support, or that random people could support them. The “random people,“ are the President of Conservative McGill, Kibler, and an extremely right wing and belligerent student politician, Reedjik.

    At least, try to be responsible if you`re going to try be an unbiased liberal journalist. Otherwise, articles like this are an insult to readers. Be honest and write an angry reactionary polemic against everyone who criticizes Remebrance Day. Don`t use the veil of unopinionated journalism to mask your opinions.

    • T

      Unbiased journalism isn’t about giving both sides 50%, it is to represent each side as it is. When your “cause” doesn’t even have 1% of the student population’s support, and the other side has overwhelmingly supported, do you both deserve equal spotlight? No. In fact it would be biased for The Tribune to do as you suggest, and to report a clearly one-sided debate as they were equal.

    • MarkLafue

      There was a statement from Demilitarize McGill and one of the members were quoted to lead off the article. There were then three quotes from people who disagreed with their stance, their relevant affiliations noted, followed by another that agreed with them to finish the article.
      There is no reason to assume that that ratio is unrepresentative, especially given size of the crowd that was at the ceremony as compared to DM’s presence there. DM was given plenty of space to present their side. Other than granting anonymity for no discernible reason to one source, this actually IS a fairly balanced piece.

  • troll

    does conservative mcgill fund the trib now?

  • rrrrr

    “Instead, [it is] the group that is willing to disrespect seniors and
    other veterans who risked and gave their lives for their country [….]
    This group demonstrated a remarkable degree of callousness, selfishness
    and immaturity.”

    And herein lies the issue. The critics of Demilitarize McGill are conflating respect for seniors and veterans (persons) with the way we remember wars (events, often driven by those who are not members of the former group). How is it controversial to say that symbols can be used in unintended ways by others in order to serve ulterior motives? It happens all the time.

    Just look at the stickers people put on their cars: nobody has yellow ribbons saying “I support the war,” but rather “I support the troops” – a doublethink if ever there was one, given the way we treat veterans. Remembrance Day, too, is being used to conflate support for troops and veterans with support for war, no matter the costs it inflicts on us, on veterans, and those we invade.

    In a way, this backlash against Demilitarize McGill proves its point. They have pointed out that we are conflating the respect owed to veterans with remaining silent when critiquing the establishment of war in our society. The reaction has been exactly that.

    • MarkLafue

      It is more accurate to say that Demilitarize McGill is conflating remembering the dead with condoning the evils that have come from military action. It actually isn’t intellectually inconsistent to honor the victims of war – whether they wore a uniform or not – and be opposed to the policies that lead to those deaths. The backlash to DM stems, I believe, from the fact they they appear to be operating on the belief that no one on campus is capable for holding two separate thoughts in their head at the same time.

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