TORONTO – Canadians have never shied away from honouring Remembrance Day, but a new poll suggests there’s growing interest in paying tribute to fallen soldiers.
An Ipsos Reid poll found that 30 per cent of respondents to an online survey had formal plans to attend Remembrance Day ceremonies on Sunday.
Polls taken in previous years show that number has been steadily rising. Only 16 per cent of those surveyed in 2008 planned to attend a Remembrance Day event, but the number climbed to 22 per cent in 2010 and has risen a further eight points since then.
The number of survey respondents who planned to observe two minutes of silence also increased, climbing five points from 2010 levels to 80 per cent in 2012. The poll also showed that 82 per cent of respondents planned to wear a poppy in the run up to Nov. 11 this year.
Anthony Wilson-Smith, president of the Historica-Dominion Institute, said the numbers suggest a growing appreciation for the role of history in everyday life.
“The events of yesterday have a very direct effect today. Our history affects our present and our future,” Wilson-Smith said in a telephone interview. “What you see a poll like this reflect really is that . . . no matter what your age in general, you’re paying more attention than you were previously.”
Wilson-Smith attributes the upswing in interest in part to the shifting demographics among the country’s veterans.
The ranks of Second World War survivors and Korean war veterans are now being swelled by the thousands of soldiers who fought as part of the nine-year mission in Afghanistan.
This younger generation of soldiers, Wilson-Smith said, have had great success connecting with Canadians as they tour schools and other community events spreading a message of remembrance.
“With younger soldiers it’s very much in the here and now,” he said. “They see them in uniform, they can visualize them doing it. The impact is immediate.”
Wilson-Smith also credited the federal conservative government, which has taken pains to raise awareness of military activities throughout its tenure.
The power of the digital age also can’t be overlooked, he added.
Detailed web archives of war footage and survivor narratives ensure Canadians can hear the traditional Remembrance Day message year-round. While such saturation has the capacity to breed apathy, Wilson-Smith said it appears to be having the reverse effect.
“If what happens is that every single day, 365 days of the year, Canadians are cognisant of the effort and sacrifice made by our veterans, that’s a real measure of success,” he said.
Despite the prevalence of wartime tributes, the Ipsos Reid poll suggests there’s a growing interest in giving Remembrance Day an even more prominent place on the national calendar.
The survey found 85 per cent of respondents believe Nov. 11 should be made a statutory holiday across the country, with 58 per cent of participants saying that doing so would give the occasion added significance.
The finding came as no surprise to Wilson-Smith, who said the day of reflection that officially marked the end of the First World War will always have emotional heft that can’t be matched at any other time.
“Nov. 11 has a tremendous degree of ceremony and circumstance and really touching gestures . . . that lift it over and above everything else,” he said. “I think all that’s attached to that means it will always stand out as a special day.”
The Ipsos Reid poll surveyed 1,039 Canadians online between Oct. 30 and Nov. 2.
The polling industry’s professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population like traditional telephone polls.