The International Churchill Society (ICS) serves to make history relevant around the world. Persons with similar beliefs and guiding principles around democracy, honesty and freedom of the individual in society come together. They recall moments of contemporary history when individual freedom and national values were threatened. Building on a foundation of historic facts and interpretations, members of the society seek to learn the lessons that history can tell us about preparing for future threats to our way of life and societal mores that continue to evolve naturally over time in peace and harmony.
On May 7th, ICS Canada held its 19th Annual Joint Dinner at Toronto’s historic Albany Club. Hugh Segal, a renowned Canadian political strategist, former senator, author, commentator and academic, delivered the after dinner speech. Acknowledging the partisan nature of the setting along with some partisan jests, Mr. Segal commented on such historical artifacts as the bar bills Sir John A. Macdonald left behind that were framed for all to see. Clearly, the Albany Club premises are seen as being on ‘sacred ground’ by many people. Were he present in body, as he was in spirit, Mr. Churchill would have been most comfortable in the Toronto location.
Expanding on Churchill’s phrase “The Gathering Storm,” Segal’s talk was about “facing up to terror and aggression.” He stressed that, “as devotees of the Churchill style of engagement, determination and courage” the task is not to dwell on the past, “but take what he taught, wrote and did, and use it all to teach what we need to know about the way ahead and the challenges down that road.”
In compliance with Churchill’s philosophy, Segal described our lesson is to accept that “Weakness in the face of naked evil is not a virtue. Looking away from man’s inhumanity to man is no legitimate way ahead.”
“Whether the non-state actors who are philosophically linked and digitally networked as terrorist coalitions in Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Somalia, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Gaza or elsewhere, the terror they unleash on fellow Muslims, law abiding citizens, or people whose only fatal sin appears to be of being the wrong denomination within Islam, or being Christian or Jewish, or young school girls, makes them, in a very real way, our enemy – pure and simple… an enemy that seeks to reach out to do damage to us or our allies, on civilian aircraft, in grocery stores and restaurants in Paris, or Spain, or Morocco or museums in Tunis, should be deemed to have attacked us at home, where we live. Any other posture or stance is not only cowardly and irresponsible, but genuinely dangerous for the security and safety of Canadians at home and abroad.”
“The Responsibility to Protect doctrine, advanced by Canada, and embraced by the United Nations is not a “step too far” as some, like Mme. Justice Louise Arbour has recently suggested. [Segal said: “]Many like to point with some justification to areas of the world where the doctrine has either not been engaged or has failed. South Sudan [and] Syria, with its civilian population under bombardment by its own Assad government, are often cited.”
Segal eloquently explained the benefits of Canada’s contributions in Afghanistan and issued contempt of those questioning such noble ideals of modern warfare. He said “Every principle of war argues that it is best to fight it as far away from one’s own territory as possible. Not to help with the battle simply because it is far away is merely to ensure that it will eventually show up within one’s own borders.”
He called for full NATO involvement and engagement at the combat, intelligence, logistical and political levels, and stressed, “Our duties in Eastern Europe on the Ukraine issue are clear – we must array our collective forces throughout Eastern Europe so that, as was the case during the Cold War, Russia understands in no uncertain terms that adventurism, aggression, violation of sovereignty of any NATO member will mean war.”
Expressing some disappointment with the maturation of C-51, Segal stressed that modern ways of managing information enhances national security. He stated “This protection is the primary duty of any national government. Freedom from fear is basic to every other freedom at the centre of our way of life: the freedom of speech, the freedom to dissent, the freedom to worship in one’s own way or not at all, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, these all depend on sustaining the freedom from fear.”
With a delightful personal touch to close off the evening, Segal introduced his uncle, his mother’s youngest brother, who will be celebrating his 90th birthday on May 30th, Corporal (ret'd) Max Dankner who served in the Canadian Army. Bringing history alive, he described how Max landed in Sicily with the Princess Louise Dragoon Guards (an Ottawa regiment) in the Second World War. He fought up the spine of Italy with other allied forces; was wounded in Montecassino, was shipped to a field hospital for 3 months; rejoined his unit for Canadian advance into Holland and its eventual liberation. Max wore a full ‘rack’ of theatre decorations plus a recent decoration for liberation of Netherlands awarded by Dutch government.
The evening was truly a celebration of Churchill’s broad literary and intellectual breadth and his stout defence of freedom, tolerance and the rights of humanity.