The first recorded use of the term Canadien was in 1640. French military records recorded how bravely the Canadian militia fought in the French and Iroquois War. Canadians have experienced to much war since then. The current trend of claiming Canada as a militaristic society is disturbing but not new. Peace Keeping only came about in the 50s but before that Canada was always ready to be ready for war, even if rarely actually ready.
It is correct for Canadians to admire what has been achieved by people in Canadian uniforms. After all Canadians have inspired others, from Baden-Powell adopting a Canadian emblem and uniform for his Boy Scouts to German Storm Troopers adopting Canadian infantry tactics. Every infantry section in the world is modeled on the concept adopted by Sir Arthur Currie in 1916. To make to big or to little of Canadian achievements is to discredit those actually achieving them, the people in uniform.
We have a Citizen’s Army, Navy and Airforce. We do not like conscription or mercenaries because Canada does not like war. Canada goes to war because of obligations, to humanity, allies or self preservation. We took none of the offered German colonies after World War I because we do not make war for expansionistic, imperialistic or profiteering purposes. We have done some of the jingoistic demonizing but not gone as far as others. We try and maintain respect, sure Canadians have committed war crimes but those are exceptions not rules.
More Canadians should learn about military history. It is a fascinating, heartbreaking subject that will make you proud and ashamed and sometimes confused or astonished. Heinz Guderian the architect of German Blitzkrieg called or soldiers ‘offensively minded’ while most German soldiers referred to the Canadian Army as the British SS. Meant as compliment for getting all the rotten, difficult jobs and making them look easy. Still insulting to veterans though. Canadians were not as important to any war effort as jingoists think, nor were we as unimportant as our allies think. Did you know after World War II a Canadian Red Cross worker effectively commanded a Japanese regiment assigned to protect the Dutch colonists from Indonesian reprisals? She is still considered a member of the regiment. Wish I could remember her name.
Canadians have fought a lot of people:
- The Iroquois – now allies
- The British – now allies
- The United States – now allies
- France – now allies
- The Irish – Fenian Brotherhood and IRA – now allies
- The Metis – now allies
- The Cree – now allies
- Afrikaans/Boers -now allies
- Germany – now allies
- Austria – now allies
- Russia – now a trade partner
- Italy – now allies
- Hungary – now allies
- Romania – now allies
- Bulgaria – never officially at war – now allies
- Japan – now allies
- China – now trade partner
- North Korea – time will tell if we are again
- Maoist Insurgents in Nepal – possibly only as instructors for Nepal army
- Al Queda and Taliban
- Perhaps some various secret enemies we have yet to find out about
A long, incomplete, list from the last 360 years, notice how most are our allies? I did not include the Cold War as a Tom Clancy character said ‘A war without victory only casualties’ nor did I list those we ended up fighting as a result of Peace keeping missions. The First Nations on the list we still need to think of as allies not as occupied people or defeated people. Aboriginal people could not vote until the Sixties but were still willing to fight and die for Democracy.
‘People, ideas, hardware in that order.’ Col. John Boyd USAF. Remembrance Day is about the people, those who died and those who came home broken in body, mind and spirit. There should be no hardware out, no recruiters just Veterans and those who thank them. Tomorrow we should all contact our Member of Parliament and demand we increase the benefits, pensions, funeral costs and all other requirements for our veterans and the memorials to the fallen. They are our fellow citizens and we should not be miserly in the financial support. Far to many Veterans are homeless, mentally ill without support and living with physical disabilities without support.
Next time someone demands Canada sends Citizens in uniform to war we must all ask them how much will we spend on Veterans. If the war mongers want war the must first ask for higher taxes to train those who go and look after them when they return.
Lest We Forget