By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on November 6, 2020.
President Ronald Reagan once said “freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. Those who have known freedom, and then lost it, have never known it again.”
As Remembrance Day nears, we are invited to reflect and be thankful for the brave men and women who gave their lives to preserve our freedom. They took a stand against the threat of tyranny in order to defend the ideals of democracy and freedom for future generations.
It is incumbent upon all of us, as beneficiaries of their sacrifices, to uphold the values for which they fought.
When I consider the value of freedom and what it signifies for us as Canadians, it is impossible to overlook the numerous assaults on this foundational principle – by the governing party, nonetheless.
Our current prime minister and his team have been chipping away at these freedoms for quite some time.
Prime Minister Trudeau sits on his self-defined moral high ground looking down his nose at the rest of us who do not see society with such ideologically purity. He envisions a country upheld by the cinderblocks of tolerance and uniformity, where everything is equal, nothing is offensive and disputes do not exist because everyone is complacently “on the same page.”
Such a world only exists under autocratic leadership. It cannot exist in a free and democratic society.
Trudeau’s idyllic utopia has been attempted – think Stalin, Lenin and Castro – but inevitably it ends with extreme central-control, dissenters being silenced or punished, and with freedom becoming a commodity that can be removed at any point if those who possess it do not fall in line.
It may sound extreme or farfetched in our beloved and free Canada, but it is the direction we are heading under the current government. Canadians are the frog in the boiling pot.
I think of the young men who went off to war to fight for their country. They endured extreme challenges and many never came home, but they measured the cost and deemed it worthy of their service. It is difficult to imagine what our society would be like today if we did not have these true freedom-fighters who stepped up to the plate with courage and resolve.
Clinical psychologists have long said that it is important for people to take responsibility for their lives and to try to make things better. To live is to struggle, because life is hard and challenging. If you choose to avoid the challenges in life, and the pain that often accompanies them, then you end up living a life void of meaning and hope.
We are losing the ability to debate, or even discuss controversial issues without becoming venomous. Respect is desperately lacking for those who have different views. Uniformity of belief is seen as a strength and a way to amass support instead of truly allowing for unique differences. When did we become incapable of disagreeing without being disagreeable? When did it become acceptable to villainize those who have an opposing opinion?
There are numerous cases of Trudeau’s “my-way-or-the-highway” approach to governance. The Summer Jobs Grant attestation, the removal of ministers Jane Philpott and Jody Wilson-Raybould, and the personal attacks and character assassinations he launches against those who challenge or question him or his government are just a few examples.
More recently, it was discovered that Trudeau initiated a program to censor “misinformation” related to COVID-19 on the internet. The obvious irony is that his government has proven to be one of the biggest contributors to misinformation. Remember when they reported that masks wouldn’t make a difference? Trudeau has since doubled down on making himself the information czar.
Anytime the government deems itself the arbiter of truth, beware! Democracy is under attack.
Is this the country that our fallen heroes fought for?
When I consider the numerous assaults on freedom we see in the public square today, I cannot help but think of the brave men and women who fought for something far greater than our current reality. We can do better. We must do better.
I think of veterans like Warrant Officer Bill Shirley. Bill grew up and went to school in Lethbridge. In 1925, as a young man, he signed up for the Non-Permanent Active Militia in the Royal Canadian Artillery.
Even before Canada officially joined the war effort, Bill volunteered for active service in 1939. He had a strong sense of duty and resolved to stand for the rights and freedoms of his fellow man. Bill was the first person to sign up for active duty in Alberta.
Bill Shirley played a vital role as a Regimental Sergeant Major of the Anti-Tank Regiment in England, France and Germany. Because of his remarkable service, he was prestigiously appointed a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.
When the war ended, Bill returned home to Lethbridge where he worked in various jobs while continuing to serve until the end of the 1950s as the Regimental Sergeant Major of the 18th Field Regiment Royal Canadian Artillery.
Bill passed away on August 28, 1974. His life was one of service and dedication.
We owe it to our fallen heroes, like Bill, and to those who are still with us, to defend freedom at all costs.
Freedom is not free. It is ours at the cost of those who valiantly gave their lives on our behalf.
We remember them.
Rachael Harder is the Conservative MP for Lethbridge. Her column appears monthly.