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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Harper Government Ignores Fallen Soldiers

Tuesday was a very sad day for Canada in more ways than one. It was a day when we saw four more of our fallen soldiers return home from the war in Afghanistan, or to be more accurate, we didn’t see them come home.

Taking a page from George Bush’s book on public manipulation, the current Conservative government has decided not to permit media to show pictures of the flag draped remains of Cpl. Matthew Dinning, Cpl. Randy Payne, Bombardier Myles Mansell and Lieut. William Turner as they returned to Canada one last time. In addition to barring the media from presenting such pictures, flags in the nation’s capital will not be lowered to half mast in the standard display of respect for the fallen.

What has this Country come too? How can the people of Canada just sit back and let the government pretend that those men never existed. It may sound harsh to put it that way, but how else can I say it? By allowing our government to hide the return of our fallen soldiers and refuse to lower the flags on Parliament Hill, we are all a party to turning a blind eye on our dead. The government has brushed aside our Country’s grief. The only possible reason for doing so is to head off any potential growth of anti-war sentiment, and the saddest part of all this is that the move has barely caused more than a grumble or two among the general population.

What does that say about us? Practically every man, woman and child in this country is related to, or at the very least, knows someone in the Armed Forces. This fact is especially true in Newfoundland and Labrador where the small population base (about 500,000, less than 2% of Canada’s population) have supplied about 10% of the men and women defending the nation. Thankfully none of those returning this week are from the Province but that doesn’t lessen the feelings of shared loss being experienced.

Those brave young men answered the call of our government and our Country. They gladly put their lives on the line and in the end they paid the ultimate price. Now our government has turned its back on them and we as a people are putting up with it.

I’m sure Mr. Harper understands quite well that in any war there will always be those who support the cause and those who oppose it. That’s a simple reality that will never change. At present there is a reasonable level of support for the mission in Afghanistan and an absolute unquestioned level of support for the young people we’ve sent over there. That said, the tactic the Prime Minister has now taken of trying to hide the truth from the public, can only serve to erode the support he now has for the mission. Canadian’s are not afraid to stand and deliver when asked to do so but one thing we should never stand for is a government trying to soft sell and sugar coat a conflict for us.

Yes, the body count is climbing higher. Yes that is very upsetting to many. Yes, questions are being asked, but if the PM believes for one minute that the American style approach of hiding the war’s ugly realities from the people will somehow help him maintain support he is sadly mistaken. With over 250 million people in the U.S. and with around the clock news coverage of topics like terrorism, urban crime, Iraq, Iran and the disaster on the Gulf Coast, George Bush may be able to quietly bring home bodies without too much of a fuss. We don’t have to let that happen here. Stephen Harper is not George Bush, Canada is not the size of the U.S., our headlines are not already clogged with multiple levels of crisis and we as a people should not simply let Stephen Harper get away with slipping this reality past us.

It’s time we stood up for our brave men and women in uniform and it’s time we told Prime Minister Harper exactly what we think of this lack of respect for our fallen soldiers. The men and women in Canada’s military should be able to expect that much from us at the very least.


WJM said...

This fact is especially true in Newfoundland and Labrador where the small population base (about 500,000, less than 2% of Canada’s population) have supplied about 10% of the men and women defending the nation.

Do you have a source for this figure?

Anonymous said...

As a military family we are happy with the government's decision. We cannot raise and the lower flags like yo-yos whenever a soldier dies. That is what Remembrance Day is for. It is not lack of respect, and every soldier, old or young, verteran or rookie, knows that.

As for not showing pictures on TV...about time the media was not allowed to turn every sad event into a circus. Way to go Harper!!

Anonymous said...

bump re:anonymous, although I am not a member of a military family or in the armed forces myself.

You said :we didn’t see them come home."
I say."We saw them leave Afghanistan".

You said: "How can the people of Canada just sit back and let the government pretend that those men never existed".

I say: How can you speak for all who haven't spoken. Do you really think the government is pretending that those men never existed?

Just a few weeks back , Harper visited those pretend men in Afghanistan. I guess that was just a photo op.

You said: "By allowing our government to hide the return of our fallen soldiers and refuse to lower the flags on Parliament Hill, we are all a party to turning a blind eye on our dead."

I say: When the government stated, that the press was banned from being on the tarmac, because the privacy of the family, superceded the needs of the public. Sometimes words spoken are actually true, or have you become cynical under 12 years of Liberal rule?

The Red Ensign and Maple Leaf weren't lowered during WW1, WW2 the Korean War, UN/NATO operations around the world. Does, not lowering the flag make losses of Canadians during those events any less? I don't think so.

you said: "The only possible reason for doing so is to head off any potential growth of anti-war sentiment"

I say: As stated before, re:the privacy of the greiving individual(s)and their brothers in arms supercedes the needs of the public.

Do you actually know people who are pro-war for the sake of war. We should all be anti-war.

You said:the saddest part of all this is that the move has barely caused more than a grumble or two among the general population.

I say: Sometimes silence is unspoken agreement with the decision of the government in this instance. If it barely caused a grumble because people don't care, then it's because they never did and no amount of press coverage or flag lowering will make a difference.

You said:" Practically every man, woman and child in this country is related to, or at the very least, knows someone in the Armed Forces."

I say: With no disrespect to Newfoundland and Labrador's contribution to the military past and present, that is a rather bold statement. The demographics in this country have changed quite a bit in the last 40 years.

However enough already. I think that the press and the opposition parties are using this to further their own agenda whether politically motivated or the press being spoiled brats during the Liberal regime and not used to being sent to their room because they didn't get there way.

Anonymous said...

I'm on the fence on this one. I can see the points on both sides of the issue.

Anon may have it summed up correctly, Patriot. But I often have to wonder if it's not intended to head off any potential growth of anti-war sentiment.

I hope that those against the idea of banning the press, etc.,are only against it because they expect Harpers words to be lies, or have you become cynical under 12 years of Liberal rule.

Patriot said...

To Anon:

I'll grant that there is precedent for not lowering the flags but not allowing the press to cover the return of fallen soldiers does not have any precedent.

By the way, a number of families of military personnel, including some of those who just returned, have said they want the press to be there. There is some division on that point but certainly not enough to warrent limiting press coverage.

Yes, I do think the time Harper spent in Afghanistan was a photo-op and if nearly everyone in this country doesn't know of someone in the military it is only becauase the military has been so decimated it is a shadow of its former self.

The people of Canada have a right to grieve along with those at the base for these men and the government is only trying to soften the effect of the war to shore up support in my opinion.

Patriot said...

Yes to both Anons, I have become cynical but not because of 12 years of Liberal rule alone. Instead it is because of my nearly 42 years of being ruled from Ottawa period.

BNB said...

Personally I have no problem with the flags being raised and lowered like a yo-yo. But I hope and pray they never have to be.

I say ask the military families. Let them decide. For me I want to know when a Canadian has lost his life. When Corp. Murphy lost his life in Afghanistan I felt some regret that his body was returned first to Ottawa, then to Newfoundland. But that's just my opinion.

Allow the families to grieve and have privacy but the country needs to know also.

My issue with it is that I really feel that Harper is borrowing his policies from the Americans. No insult meant to our American friends but we need to make up our own mind as a country.

Patriot said...

My apologies folks. It looks like most of the archive section has been unavailable for a couple of days. (my fault, I left a piece of junk code lying around). Sorry for the inconvenience.

crazy american said...

Steve here,

Whether you agree with the necessity of war, no one should be insensible to the right and respect that families deserve to have to grieve in the way that they wish. Unfortunately, it can quickly turn into a political free-for-all where the motivations are badly understood, skeptically questioned or cynically dismissed.

I would suggest that it's impossible for a politician to do anything which is fundamentally non political in nature. At best they can act in a way which gains overwhelming support. All too often we call that kind of support non-political but it's really not. It just means everyone agrees that the action was good.

All of which goes to my real point.

Grief and mourning are a reality for the parents, friends and family of your fallen solders. Let that grieving be respected.

Whether the motivation for Harper's action was noble or benighted, craven or self serving is worthy of discussion, but even suppossing it was for the cynical purpose of "hiding" the horror of war for the press, isn't it just as cynical to use that grief to proselytize against the war.

I for one am glad that you folks in Canada haven't yet gotten to the point of needing Patriot Guard Riders and I hope you never do.

I really don't know where the line is between freedom of the press and the freedom to grieve by these families, but I do believe that the question becomes a little clearer when you phrase the same basic issue as the following..

What is the line between the responsiblity of the press to report and the right of families to grieve in private?

If you look at it that way, photos of caskets returning are probably appropriate for press coverage, photos and commentary of families receiving their dead probably isn't.

Sometimes I think we ask the right question the wrong way and by doing so get the wrong answer far too often

Anonymous said...

"Taking a page from George Bush’s book on public manipulation" It was Clinton who started not permitting the media to view caskets as they were brought home. And who started it is besides the point. Why do you concern yourself with who started it? Good policy is good policy. If the family of fallen soldiers want the media there for their photo ops...let them into the funerals. When they arrive home it should be family time.

As for the flag! Harper is just going back to 80 years of tradition! It's the Liberals who changed that for political purposes. Most in the military agree with Harper's decision...if they do, I think it's okay. It's the military people who are important here.

BNB said...

Steve has a great ability to cut through the confusion and nail down the point. It is indeed a matter of asking the right question the right way.

I guess what I am left wondering then is: are we confident that the PMs response to fallen soldiers is in keeping with the desires of the military and their families, the legion and veterans groups?

...Or are you a cynic like myself and do you feel that the PMs policy on flag lowering, the banning of the media at these military events, and the media blackout for other government events... are these a draconian measure of a paranoid minority leader?

Patriot said...

Once again, good points Steve. Like BNB however I also question the motives behind this.

I don't believe the government had any consultation with those directly involved or are even concerned with their wishes. Rather I believe it is an attempt to soft sell the impact of the engagement.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not against having forces over there, in fact I agree with it generally. What I don't like someone trying to hide the truth of the casualties.

The reason I don't believe they are concerned with the families or soldiers wishes is because while a few agree with the move, others have said they want the arrivals made public. Even some soldiers over there have commented that it would make them feel abandoned (or something to that effect) if the media did not show those images.

Anonymous said...

"How can the people of Canada just sit back and let the government pretend that those men never existed." How can you say that about the Conservative government? It's the Conservatives who have always been on the side of the military. It's Harper who is doing everything he can for the soldiers. Giving the families privacy to grieve the fallen soldiers is NOT pretending they never existed. Harper doesn't care if the poor media is upset by the move, and GOOD for him! The media are always whining when they don't get what they want. It's not an issue of what's best for the military and their families here; it's about trying to do whatever they can to get people against Conservatives.

When the Liberal government in November, 2005 decided to go back to the tradition of not lowering the flag every time a Canadian soldier was killed did you write about that in this blog? Private B.S. Woodfield was returned to Canada in late November 2005, the Peace Tower flag was not lowered to half-mast -- there was no great outcry from the media then!

Double standards as usual!

Anonymous said...

Rex Murphy said last night on his 'Point of View' segment that the families were never asked if they wanted these extra privacy pervisions.

So then, if Rex is right (and I suspect he did his homework) then this only has to do with government motives and hidden agenda. Nothing more.

I think Patriot has it all right, personally. This is just an attempt to soft sell the impact of the war engagement.

Patriot said...

Boy, Harper and the Conservatives really hate the media don't they? Are they trying to maintain control by shutting the public out all together?

First the cabinet members are placed under a gag order and not allowed to speak with the press unless the comments are approved.

Then we here rumors (later denied but I question that denial) that government must approve all General Rick Hilliars speaches.

Then they deny media access to the arrival of slain military personnel.

Now, they are trying to control artistic expression in an attempt to "be nice" to the U.S.

Get this from a news story today about a new film, not yet released, by Jean-Daniel Lafond, the Governor General's husband:

...Although the film has not yet been screened in the nation's capital, some government members are wary of news reports of an overly sympathetic portrayal of a political assassin or hints of an anti-George W. Bush message contained within.

"Look, I haven't seen the film. I've heard commentary about it," Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay told CTV. "Anything that is inflammatory, or not factual about any of our trading partners or allies, is not helpful."

...cautioned that any political message would be inappropriate.

...the office of the Governor General includes that of the spouse. Officially, the spouse ... should respect the fact that Canada has a profound, deep and committed relationship" with the U.S

...members of the Governor General's office should be apolitical.

Do you believe this. I mean now threatening artistic expression is treading on very thin ice. Besides, since when did Ottawa start paying the salary of the husband to the Governor General? Last I heard he was still a private citizen with the same rights as anyone else.

Maybe that's what we should be concerned with. If he is a private citizen then what does that say for freedom of speach in Canada under this current government, especially when it comes to talking about the U.S.

This is really starting to get out of hand.

Anonymous said...

Great article in the National Post:

‘Canadians have not earned the right to share our grief’

Ian Parker, National Post
Published: Thursday, April 27, 2006

As a retired member of the Canadian Armed Forces, I’m disturbed by the media frenzy and the artificial public outcry over the government’s decision to restrict the media from CFB Trenton for the arrival of Canadian war dead. I fully support this decision, and I am ashamed of my fellow Canadians. For the past dozen years, when the Liberals were decimating the Canadian military, there was no public outcry. There was no media frenzy. You did not care. Canadians have—due to their self-centred, insatiable demand for social programs—wilfully neglected the men and the women of the Canadian Forces and allowed the federal government, under the Liberals, to gut the Canadian military. And now the media and other pundits wish to share in the grief of the military families for their fallen ones?

Where were the public outcry and the media frenzy over the government’s obvious agenda to emasculate the Canadian Forces? There was no outcry when the air force was arbitrarily cut due to lack of resources; no outcry that the army, cut to the bone, is now unable to survive on a modern high-tech battlefield; and there has been not been a word over the decimation of the once-proud Canadian navy. In short, there has been no outcry that the Canadian Forces cannot fulfill its mission to defend Canada.

The Canadian media—and Canadians—have not earned the right to share our grief. Shame on the Canadian media, and shame on Canadians.

Ian Parker, Carleton Place, Ont.

Anonymous said...

Amen to that Ian!

Anonymous said...

I resent the accusation that President Bush is trying to "bring home bodies without too much of a fuss". I resent the accusation that he is somehow trying to hide or minimize the victims of war.

And I am both offended and disgusted that so many of you, including the author, feel entitled to engage in your own ghoulish voyeurism. Cloak the sickness in words like "respect" and "dignity" all you want. It is sick, and disturbed to demand the right to gloat over caskets.

Leave the families alone. It is their loss, not yours. It is their grief, not yours. It is their pain, not yours. A soldier may die for his country, but he lives for his family and friends.

And if that ain't you, shut the fuck up and leave those who matter alone.