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.