Classes continued as usual while McGill commemorated Remembrance Day – falling this year on the 90th anniversary of the World War I armistice – in the lobby of the Arts Building Tuesday.
Approximately 300 people gathered, but less than half were students – the rest were a mix of veterans, alumni, and staff.
“Some people don’t want to show up [to events] because it’s a school day,” explained Kallee Lins, U0 Arts, an attendee of the event.
Remembrance Day is not observed as an mandatory statutory holiday in Quebec, Ontario, Nova Scotia, or Manitoba.
Students were invited to attend the ceremony just a day before the event, in an email sent by Principal Heather Munroe-Blum – giving them little time to plan around classes or other obligations.
“They didn’t tell us anything about it until the night before,” said Rory Ewing, U1 Engineering, at the ceremony.
Some students were surprised McGill hadn’t followed suit with other universities around the country that suspended school for the day.
“I thought we’d have the day off,” said Anna Bunce, U0 Arts. “[British Columbia universities] had it off.”
Chris Chipello, from McGill media relations, explained that class schedules are designed to fulfill a minimum amount of class hours, and that McGill couldn’t afford to suspend an entire day of classes.
Others argued that McGill was right to continue with a normal school day.
“They shouldn’t suspend classes,” said first-year Michelle Reddick.
The ceremony began with a procession from the Roddick Gates up to Arts Building, where the large assembly struggled to fit in the lobby, with many spilling out onto the steps as Munroe-Blum laid down a wreath.
SSMU President Kay Turner read “In Flanders Fields,” a poem written by McGill Field Surgeon Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, who operated a field hospital during World War I. She was followed by Reverend Jeffrey Barlow, the University Chaplain, who spoke about taking a secular approach toward Remembrance Day, emphasizing the importance of remembering regardless of personal religious orientation. He also called for a remembrance of those most closely affected by the casualties of war.
“It’s important for us, whatever our beliefs, to remember those who have given their lives, and particularly their families, friends, and loved ones,” he said. “It’s necessary to think about all those people who are suffering all over the world.”
Barlow’s address was followed by a two-minute silence, and the ceremony concluded with a piper playing “The Lament” and a military trumpeter playing “Reveille.”
Throughout the twentieth century’s two World Wars, McGill has lost over 600 men and women– 363 died in World War I, and another 298 died in World War II. McGill students and alumni continue to remain active in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and other conflict-zones around the world.