Friday, November 11, 2005

And lest we forget…

A tiny handful of veterans of the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion of the XVth International Brigade, or the "Mac-Paps," remains officially unacknowledged by the Canadian government and by the Canadian Legion. Some 1600 brave Canadian volunteers, mostly serving in this Battalion, went to Spain to fight fascism before it was fashionable to do so, suffering heavy casualties-- half were killed on the battlefield.

Many veterans of the Spanish Civil War weren't permitted to enlist in the forces when Canada entered the Second World War in 1940. They were (to use the FBI cant phrase) "premature anti-fascists." Fascism is only bad if the government says it is, apparently, and Canada’s position on the Spanish Civil War was one of shameful neutrality. Francisco Franco's forces invited the Nazis in to test their newest equipment on civilian populations, while the West stood by in silent complicity.

I was fortunate enough to attend an unveiling ceremony in Ottawa in 2001 for a memorial to these fallen heroes. The Governor-General at the time, Her Excellency Adrienne Clarkson, assisted in the unveiling and gave a moving tribute. I shook the hands of the few veterans able to make it to the ceremony.

These men, many of whom had fought injustice at home and were part of the On to Ottawa Trek, deserve to be remembered and honoured for their fight against fascism. I take this opportunity to do so on Remembrance Day, 2005.

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