It sometimes seems that every month of the year has one or more “days of…” kind of events. November this year is certainly going to be one to notice. There is, of course, Remembrance Day on November 11, but a few days before that is Indigenous Veterans Day, commemorating a much less well-known group of veterans. During WW1, more than 40,000 Indigenous men enlisted, following a warrior tradition going back centuries. In some parts of the country, one in three Indigenous men enlisted, and in the Head of the Lake Band in B.C., every man aged between 20 and 35 joined up – a remarkable record, considering the way in which Indigenous people in Canada have been treated historically.
Perhaps this year more than any other, Holdomore Memorial Day will be recognised in Canada as ever before. It remembers the millions of victims of the Holodomor, the famine genocide deliberately inflicted on Ukrainian people in 1932 and 1933 by Joseph Stalin’s totalitarian regime.
The Holodomor, which means “death by hunger” in Ukrainian, was deliberately perpetrated by Joseph Stalin to systematically destroy the unique identity of the Ukrainian people, along with their aspirations for freedom and independence. In 1991, Ukraine eventually gained independence, after decades of Soviet rule.
The current war in Ukraine precipitated by Putin’s invasion in February, brings Holdomor Memorial Day sharply into focus, illustrating the long struggle of the Ukrainian people for freedom and national identity.
Two other special days of remembrance this month are National Child Day on November 20, and the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence from November 25 to December 10. These will be discussed in the Times during the coming weeks.
Over all of these days of remembering, is Canada History Week, from November 20 to 26. History is what gives us context, tells us where we came from, and remembers those who laid the foundations of our society and local community. Without history, we have no identity, no roots, nothing to give us a sense of self as a people. We can learn a lot from the people of Ukraine who are forced, once again, to maintain their identity.
This month of November is full of opportunities to remember, to learn, to celebrate and to honour those who passed on to us the heritage we enjoy in this complicated world. Learning about them makes it easier to build for future generations.