Opinion: Remembrance Day turmoil should teach lesson in forgiveness

There has been a lot of discussion recently about Don Cherry’s comments on Hockey Night in Canada, and his subsequent dismissal.

First off, he was wrong to say what he did, period. In defending veterans and their memory, he used the wrong choice of words to talk about those who don’t buy poppies. Lots of people don’t wear poppies, new and old Canadians alike.

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Remembrance Day is important to me. My father was in the Royal Canadian Air Force. He never saw battle, but he served for and defended our country. After leaving the service, he didn’t dwell on it much; I wasn’t exposed to a lot of military stuff when I was younger. But I’m proud of his service, and I bugged him to get veterans’ license plates when they became available. He did, reluctantly.

Recently, he moved into an assisted living facility for veterans. They are very focused on honouring those who served. Remembrance Day is an important day there, and the ceremony was very emotional. Dad never did like putting his uniform and medals on, but they dress him up for these things. He doesn’t seem to mind. Not too much.

As part of the ceremony, a small group of cadets marched in with various flags. Each one of these young people who had decided to put on a uniform was a person of colour. Each saw honour in becoming part of something bigger than themselves, as a Canadian.

Later, another group of soldiers visited the cenotaph at the facility. As they all stood at attention for the national anthem, then walked up to the cenotaph to place their poppies and salute, there were faces of people from all over the world, but who now call Canada home.

While Cherry might have been speaking about all those who don’t wear a poppy, that’s not what he said. Worse, in his attempts to clarify, he hasn’t apologized for his original choice of words. And he’s paying the price for it.

Many have come to his defense, saying he should be given a second chance. Lots of people say things they later regret. Regardless of what he meant to say, he has to own his words. The question is, even if he did apologize, would it make any difference? In our current social climate, we are very quick to blame, but very slow to forgive.

Nelson Mandella said, “Forgiveness liberates the soul, it removes fear. That’s why it’s such a powerful weapon.” If anyone had a reason not to forgive, it was Mandella. But he found a way.

When we don’t forgive, we polarize. When we blame and chastise, we separate. We can apologize all we want, but we will never be able to achieve true unity until we allow for forgiveness.

I don’t defend or agree with Cherry’s comments, nor am I in a place to ask someone else to forgive him. If he admits what he said was wrong with a sincere apology, can he be forgiven? We don’t have to forget to forgive, but we have to forgive to move on.

Lack of forgiveness is what started the wars, and only served to hurt the people we now honour. How ironic.

Brad Sherwin, MBA is a long-time resident of South Delta, and has almost 30 years’ experience in marketing, public relations and business strategy. He teaches marketing at Douglas College, coaches hockey goalies and is past president of the board of directors at Deltassist.

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