Wednesday Night #1707

Written by  //  November 19, 2014  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

Victory abroad, grief at home
Footnotes to the evening: In a new book on Canadian history, Conrad Black recounts the momentous months that brought the First World War to a close
As the First World War was grinding to its conclusion in 1918, there was severe anti-conscription rioting in Quebec City starting on March 29, which the municipal police ignored, and which included the destruction of the registrar’s office. Four thousand troops were dispatched, although only 1,000 were deployed. On April 1 fire was exchanged and several soldiers were seriously wounded and four rioters were killed. What amounted to martial law was imposed. There were some anti-French reflections by private members in Parliament (by Conservatives Colonel J.A. Currie and H.H. Stevens) and Opposition Leader Wilfrid Laurier replied judiciously, supporting the imposition of the law but strenuously rebutting what amounted to ethnic slurs from Currie and Stevens. Prime Minister Robert Borden followed and rebuked his own caucus-members in unambiguous strictures. It is generally believed that there were about 35,000 French-Canadian volunteers in the armed forces. There was a perceptible gap in war enthusiasm between French and English Canadians, but that is neither surprising nor discreditable.
8 Famous writers (and two movie stars) you didn’t know served in the Great War

P R O L O G U E

Celebrating two books about World War I by two good friends.
Philippe Bieler, author of Onward, Dear Boys: A Family Memoir of the Great War, is a friend of very long standing, who grew up in Quebec City, graduated from McGill and now lives on a sheep farm in Wales That’s the very abbreviated story!Onward Dear Boys
Amazon says “The Bieler family’s vast collection of wartime letters and photographs tell intimate, firsthand stories of five young brothers and their parents. In Onward, Dear Boys, Philippe Bieler skilfully weaves together his own voice with those of his grandparents, his father, and his uncles into a story of war, immigration, and family life. Settling in the province of Quebec, then divided into French-speaking Catholics and English-speaking Anglicans, was a struggle for these devout, francophone Calvinists, but with the unexpected declaration of war in 1914 came an even greater challenge. In 1915 three of the five Bieler boys volunteered with the Princess Patricia Regiment, and in 1916 the fourth son followed. The eldest, Jean, became an assistant to Colonel Birkett, commander of the McGill-financed Canadian Hospital in Boulogne, and the second-eldest, Etienne, was promoted to lieutenant of an artillery brigade. The other two were privates who fought in battles including Sanctuary Wood, the Somme, Vimy, and Passchendaele, and in 1917, the fourth son, Philippe, died at the front. Upon their return to civilian life, the surviving brothers became leaders in government, science, and the arts : the eldest as Deputy Finance Director of the League of Nations, the second as a colleague of Sir Ernest Rutherford in the research of the atom, and the third as President of the Federation of Canadian Artists The youngest, Jacques, who was too young to go to war, was an instigator of the CCF party, a precursor to the NDP. Enlivened by a wealth of family archival material, Onward, Dear Boys is a poignant story of the experiences of war and its impact on a family of new Canadians during the first decades of the twentieth century.” Postmedia published a long interview-cum-review by Ian McGillis, that we highly recommend Remembrance in letters: One family’s story.

Faith Under FireAlan Hustak,  born and bred in Saskatchewan, came to Montreal for a weekend in 1967 and never left. Prolific author of many books, online articles and wonderful obituary/portraits, and authority on all things Titanic, Alan has had two books published this fall. The one we will celebrate on Wednesday is Faith Under Fire: Frederick G. Scott, Canada’s Extraordinary Chaplain of the Great War
“If Frederick Scott is remembered at all today, it is as minor Victorian poet or as the father of his illustrious son F.R. Scott. However, Frederick Scott was almost 55 years old and the pastor of St. Matthews Anglican Church in Quebec City when he volunteered to go overseas to serve as senior chaplain with the 1st Canadian Infantry Division during the First World War. The depth of his faith was tested when he lost a son at the Battle of the Somme. Through a series of unpublished letters in the McCord Museum, author Alan Hustak tells the powerful and absorbing story of a man revered by the Canadian military for his remarkable ministry. One admiring private recalled, “No matter how thick the fight, he is always to be seen wherever the boys are. … to see men dying all around you, all dying for principle, it hardens a man, and at the same times softens him.’ His letters home from the front reveals how Scott discovered first-hand what fear really is, how to conquer it and how to inspire others.”
Beyond the fact that both are based on letters home from the front during World War I, there is a curious link between the subjects of the two books. Charles Bieler, father of the “Dear Boys” was also a pastor.

This would also be an appropriate time to revisit the columns published by our two Davids in August.
David (Jones) WWI: An almost needless war that we hardly remember and will unlikely repeat
vs
David (Kilgour) WWI: An important event in the establishment of Canada and the history of Europe
Ron Robertson has called our attention to another recent publication that serves as an excellent end note to the two books we are celebrating. A Time Such as There Never Was Before – Canada After the Great War by his former colleague at Foreign Affairs, Alan Bowker examines the years immediately following the war “among the most tumultuous in Canadian history: a period of unremitting change, drama, and conflict” and how the period “laid the foundation of the Canada we know today”.
And last, but certainly not least, the excellent series The Great War including Brian Stewart & Conrad Black discuss Canada’s extraordinary role in the Great War

Given the topic of the “War to end all wars” it seems appropriate to draw attention to the current state of affairs.

Richard Haass writes in the current issue of Foreign Affairs:
With U.S. hegemony waning and no successor waiting to pick up the baton, the current international system will likely give way to a larger number of power centers acting with increasing autonomy. The post–Cold War order is unraveling, and it will be missed.
Left unattended, the current world turbulence is unlikely to fade away or resolve itself. Bad could become worse all too easily should the United States prove unwilling or unable to make wiser and more constructive choices. Nor is there a single solution to the problem, as the nature of the challenges varies from region to region and issue to issue. In fact, there is no solution of any sort to a situation that can at best be managed, not resolved. (The Unraveling — How to Respond to a Disordered World)

What about all the various Groups and regional associations? There has been a flurry of activity in Asia lately, (APEC, ASEAN and the G20 all in the space of a week), giving most of us little time to absorb where our leaders were before they had moved on to somewhere else.
The culmination was the Australia-hosted G20 where Mr. Putin was a large elephant (or bear) in the room thanks to actions in Ukraine. It didn’t help his case that he had trailed a convoy of Russian ships in his wake. Tony Abbott, the host, was in for some fire as well, but from his national media for ‘weird and graceless’ remarks about domestic policy in the international forum. Aside from Russia, the buzz was all about Climate Change and the China-U.S. agreement announced in Beijing on November 12. But as David Harsanyi points out “1) We’re not really doing anything we weren’t going to do anyway. 2) Neither is China.”
Nonetheless, the G20 managed to list 800 (count them!) measures for economic growth in the final Communiqué. It remains to be seen what progress is recorded when Turkey hosts the 2016 G20.
There’s a provocative piece in Salon by Patrick Smith – one man’s interpretation of course – What really happened in Beijing: Putin, Obama, Xi — and the back story the media won’t tell you
Ukraine, Iran’s nukes, the price of oil: There are ties worthy of a Bourne film, if the media connected the dots Looking forward to comments.

And lest we are tempted to temporarily gloss over the turmoil in the Middle East, we recommend:
Nahlah Ayed: How ISIS and Syria drove a stake through the Arab Spring
The rise of ISIS is a setback for reform in a region that is crying out for it
For years, in a variety of studies, Arab states were reminded time and again of how far behind they had fallen. How dissatisfied their youth had become. How desperately their nations needed political and economic reform. How even extremist Islamists derived more legitimacy with every injustice dealt by the state.

At home, we are very happy to see Ted Hsu is introducing a private member’s bill to restore the long-form census. With all the happy burbling from the government (well, no, Joe Oliver really isn’t the burbling type) about the surplus, don’t we need to have better statistics in order to assess the needs of the population? Mr. Harper would no doubt disagree as he already has his plans in place (see Paul Wells Paul Wells on what today’s fall economic update says about Stephen Harper’s 2015 election plans).

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