Canada is a country built upon military history. Despite the insistence of many Canadians to gloss over this fact, and the continual description of Canada as a ‘peacekeeper’, Canada was conceived, born, and raised in war.
As a people we revel in pointing out the United States’ History of war, claiming ‘they’ve been at war as long as they’ve existed.’ Meanwhile Canada would not exist if it were not for war.
In a brief historical flashback, Canada was at war before it even became a nation. French and English troops spilled blood far from their European homeland, fighting over a cold patch of soil and small settlements. After the Plains of Abraham Canada became predominantly English, setting the stage for the creation of Quebec. Just 70 years later the colony that would become Canada was under attack by American forces in the year of 1812. It was in this war that loyalists to the crown proved their worth as militia, fighting alongside redcoats, and joined by native warriors, who over the years have continued to make sacrifices for the Canadian Military.
Another very little known fact is that an estimated 30 to 50000 Canadians fought in the civil war for the North – the faction that intended to follow the British abolition of slavery. A perfect example is Edward Doherty, an officer in the Union Army. He was the leader of the team that hunted down and killed John Wilkes Booth. To repeat this: Abraham Lincolns murderer was killed by a team headed by a Canadian. Over 29 Canadians received the Medal of Honor for their service in the war.
There are many other examples of heroism in the Canadian military, from Vimy Ridge, a turning point in the countries history, to Dieppe, a failure that ultimately paved the way for great successes in Normandy and Holland. This is not even touching the UNPROFOR missions, Korea or Afghanistan.
Somehow however Canada is pervaded with lingering suspicions of their military, a laid back attitude concerning public safety and an utter lack of desire to pour any substantial funding into the Forces. The formula is simple: decimate military funding, leaving a skeleton force barely fit to defend a single province. Then enter a conflict promising the world, dropping an unrealistic mission on an inexperienced and under-equipped military. Afghanistan is a perfect example of this – Canada entered into the most dangerous part of the country with little recent combat experience and a laughable array of equipment, including fragile soft skin vehicles with metal plates welded on the side, and green combats in a desert environment. The Canadian soldiers on these early tours fought hard and died, in part because of the tenacity of the enemy, in part because the CF had been betrayed by years of budget cuts and training reduction. By the time relevant equipment and training was fully implemented, the mission was nearing its end.
After the withdrawal of the combat force, Canada has immediately shown a disposition to return to its previous attitude, cutting the already minuscule budget by 7 percent and severely lashing out at any perceived military mismanagement.
The above is a story concerning SAR pilots who were taking a break from flying their helicopter to fish. As an excellent leader Mackay defended the pilots. As he pointed out, the pilots are required to fly a certain amount of hours each month, in the daytime and the night. So what if they chose to land on a small island and fish? It doesn’t cost the taxpayers any extra as these men are all on salary.
The most appalling part is the comments underneath the story, full of people convinced that the SAR pilots are roustabouts wasting the taxpayers dollars, lambasting Mackay and bemoaning ‘the direction this country is heading.’ In some countries military misdemeanors include coups, genocide or corruption. Canada has fishing trips. These bleeding heart left wingers are quick to degenerate into a hate fest for the military. Oh we support the military they say, we just want to cut their budget to next to nothing, and leave them able to only operate in Canada to shovel snow in Toronto and fight forest fires in BC.
Of course the truth is much more brutal. Last year, a SAR tech was killed in an operation that successfully rescued a man and his child out in frigid waters in Nunavut. To quote a popular news agency:
“He was found five hours later, unresponsive and floating in the sea with his life-jacket inflated, the report found. The tether that was supposed to have held his one-man life-raft to his life-preserver “had separated at the threads and this life-raft was missing.” The dry suit he was wearing was not optimized for use on the Hercules, the report said.”
In other words, it seems likely that this true hero, who dove into frigid wars to save a Canadian citizen was killed because his equipment was inadequate. As an experienced operator, he would have recognized the dangers involved, and it seems unlikely that personal error resulted in his death.
The Canadian people need to wake up and stop backstabbing their own military, the one that they demand so much from. More funding needs to be allocated to replace dangerous aging equipment, particularly for the neglected air force. Support for the CF should be canvassed across the nation, and children should not be taught that Canadian soldiers are ‘mercenaries for big oil’ or ‘psychopaths’ as Paul Graham wrote, but dedicated professionals who have continually put their life on the line for the country.
Of course this does not touch upon the failure of DND to be transparent, and no organization is without irresponsible personnel. That however, is an entirely different post.