Friday, August 15, 2008


In the last two weeks, while we've all been enjoying our summer sunshine and activities, Canada's lost our 89th and 90th soldiers to the war in Afghanistan. In their honour, I've reprinted below a January 2007 article that ran in the London UK Sunday Telegraph. Canadians must be proud of their contributions to the security of the world, our service to peace-keeping and peace-making, and our willingness to team up with our allies and join whatever fray threatens the rest of the world. Although this article was written for the four Canadian soldiers who died in "friendly fire" from an American fighter jet while on exercise in Afghanistan, I believe the article should be thought-provoking to all Canadians about what our national heritage is in terms of the loss of our precious soldiers, airmen, and sailors. (and I include our female counterparts in those titles).

Lest We Forget

This came from a British newspaper
Sunday Telegraph Article
From today's UK wires: Salute to a brave and modest nation
Kevin Myers, The Sunday Telegraph
LONDON - Until the deaths last week of four Canadian
soldiers accidentally killed by a U.S. warplane in Afghanistan,
probably almost no one outside their home country had been aware that
Canadian troops were deployed in the region. And as always, Canada
will now bury its dead, just as the rest of the world as always will
forget its sacrifice, just as it always forgets nearly everything
Canada ever does.
It seems that Canada 's historic mission is to come to
the selfless aid both of its friends and of complete strangers, and then,
once the crisis is over, to be well and truly ignored. Canada is the
perpetual wallflower that stands on the edge of the hall, waiting for
someone to come and ask her for a dance. A fire breaks out, she risks
life and limb to rescue her fellow dance-goers, and suffers serious
injuries. But when the hall is repaired and the dancing resumes,
there is Canada, the wallflower still, while those she once helped
glamorously cavort across the floor, blithely neglecting her yet
That is the price Canada pays for sharing the North
American continent with the United States , and for being a selfless
friend of Britain in two global conflicts. For much of the 20th
century, Canada was torn in two different directions: It seemed to be
a part of the old world, yet had an address in the new one, and that
divided identity ensured that it never fully got the gratitude it
deserved. Yet its purely voluntary contribution to the cause of
freedom in two world wars was perhaps the greatest of any democracy.
Alost 10% of Canada 's entire population of seven million people
served in the armed forces during the First World War, and nearly
60,000 died. The great Allied victories of 1918 were spearheaded by
Canadian troops, perhaps the most capable soldiers in the entire
British order of battle.
Canada was repaid for its enormous sacrifice by downright
neglect, its unique contribution to victory being absorbed into the
popular Memory as somehow or other the work of the "British." The
Second World War provided a re-run. The Canadian navy began the war
with a half dozen vessels, and ended up policing nearly half of the
Atlantic against U-boat attack. More than 120 Canadian warships
participated in the Normandy landings, during which 15,000 Canadian
soldiers went ashore on D-Day alone.
Canada finished the war with the third-largest navy and the
fourth-largest air force in the world.
The world thanked Canada with the same sublime
indifference as it had the previous time. Canadian participation in
the war was acknowledged in film only if it was necessary to give an
American actor a part in a campaign in which the United States had
clearly not participated, a touching scrupulousness which, of course, Hollywood has since
abandoned, as it hasn't any notion of a separate Canadian identity.
So it is a general rule that actors and filmmakers arriving in Hollywood keep
their nationality - unless, that is, they are Canadian. Thus Mary Pickford,
Walter Huston, Donald Sutherland, Michael J. Fox, William Shatner, Norman Jewison,
David Cronenberg, Alex Trebek, Art Linkletter and Dan Aykroyd have in the popular perception
become American, and Christopher Plummer, British. It is as if, in the
very act of becoming famous, a Canadian ceases to be Canadian, unless
she is Margaret Atwood, who is as unshakably Canadian as a moose, or
Celine Dion, for whom Canada has proved quite unable to find any
Moreover, Canada is every bit as querulously alert to the
achievements of its sons and daughters as the rest of the world is
completely unaware of them. The Canadians proudly say of themselves -
and are unheard by anyone else - that 1% of the world's population has
provided 10% of the world's peacekeeping forces. Canadian soldiers in
the past half century have been the greatest peacekeepers on Earth -
in 39 missions on UN mandates, and six on non-UN peacekeeping duties,
from Vietnam to East Timor, from Sinai to Bosnia.
Yet the only foreign engagement that has entered the
popular on-Canadian imagination was the sorry affair in Somalia , in
which out-of-control paratroopers murdered two Somali infiltrators.
Their regiment was then disbanded in disgrace - a uniquely Canadian
act of self-abasement for which, naturally, the Canadians received no
international credit.
So who today in the United States knows about the stoic and selfless friendship
its northern neighbour has given it in Afghanistan ?
Rather like Cyrano de Bergerac , Canada repeatedly does honourable
things for honourable motives, but instead of being thanked for it, it
remains something of a figure of fun.
It is the Canadian way, for which Canadians should be
proud, yet such honour comes at a high cost. This week, four more
grieving Canadian families knew that cost all too tragically well.

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