Rahul Parekh received a plaque and medal on Thursday from zone commander and Second World War veteran Ed Laird in recognition of the essay, entitled Peace.
Describing the arguments therein, Parekh pointed to the negative effects that wars have on the soldiers who are sent to fight them.
“The government made these people go to war, and no one can really cope with shooting someone, shooting another human being,” he said.
“(It’s) a hard thing for them to cope, and then coming back and then everyone forgetting about it, which it shouldn’t be … I brought up wars, like the Cold War … and how we’ve lost many people from that and how it’s not fair, because it’s basically humans versus humans.
“So I brought about the whole idea about why war isn’t good at all.”
While recognizing and honouring the sacrifices of previous generations, Parekh argued that there is always a better alternative to war.
“You don’t always have to have humans fighting other humans and trying to kill each other,” he said. “You can always talk. You can always negotiate. You don’t always have to fight for democracy.
“What they did was good, because they fought for democracy, but it shouldn’t happen again. We’re still sending troops all over the place for peacekeeping, and we’re not living together as a species.”
Parekh accepted the award in class, where his teacher, Val Zbaraschuk, thanked Laird personally for his contributions to democracy in Canada.
She said that one of the best ways to encourage peace is through education, and noted that her class has recently been studying a relevant topic in that regard.
“We’re just looking at conflict resolution and how to resolve conflict, and basically what choices we can make,” Zbaraschuk said.
“There are a lot of great choices, and one is being well-educated on it.”
Parekh said he was surprised when he first found out he had won the essay contest. Having never met a war veteran before, he described Laird’s award presentation as a special and unique experience.
No one can really cope with shooting someone, shooting another human being. - Rahul Parekh
But Laird pointed out that Parekh’s essay dovetails with a central objective of the Royal Canadian Legion.
“Part of our Legion’s goal, of course, is to see that we remember, and namely to see that it never happens again,” Laird said.
Discussing the causes of war, Parekh acknowledged that the media can sometimes play a contributing role in inflating perceived threats.
While many blame the government for sending people off to war, Parekh argued that the democratic traditions of countries such as Canada means that the blame must ultimately rest with the people themselves.
“It’s always the people, because we start stuff,” he said.
“We believe in stuff, and we create the pressure, because the government in the USA, the government here, they wouldn’t be the government if we didn’t vote them to be the government …
“It’s not like China or somewhere where it’s a dictatorship and they tell you what you have to do … (Here) they’ll want their party to succeed. They’ll want more votes, so they’ll do what the people ask them to do, and we pressure them to do it, I guess, in a way.”
As a result, Parekh suggested that lasting peace can only come from a major change in human society.
“If society doesn’t change, we will never change, because we’re always power-hungry and greedy,” he lamented.
“Each country is never working together to achieve a goal. There’s always some type of trick or some type of greed or something that’s happening. Even when there’s no war, there’s something happening behind the scenes that we’re not told about.
“It always means that we’re always at conflict and we’re always fighting, and we have to learn to work together -- that we’re one species.”