There was a time when Canada realized that while military security was an important investment, it was the long-term planning involved in relief and development that would ultimately bring greater measures of peace to our world. Somewhere along the way we lost that. We also lost a seat on the UN Security Council, the world's respect through our lack of action on climate change, and our altruism the moment we decided to invest development resources only in those nations that enhanced our own local economy and brought political benefit to the government.
Poet, Anatole France, once observed that, "it is the certainty that they possess the truth that makes men cruel." He could just as easily be commenting on two recent actions of our present federal government that fly directly in the face of what is supposed to be good politics: giving the people what they want. How else to explain the undue harshness against this country's veterans, or the outright attack and manipulation in the Harper government's attempts to revamp Elections Canada to its own purposes? What makes both of these instances so remarkable is the sheer arrogance of a government acting against the best interests of its own people.
When I read that Romeo Dallaire had been in a car accident on Parliament Hill just outside of East Block, I wondered if it was due to fatigue. I have never known him to be other than fully occupied and frequently exhausted in the course of his heavy schedule. Romeo has a lot more than just memories to fight. As he explained this week, he fights depression and remains medicated for PTSD. But he has turned his pain into a purpose, and in so doing he can get up every day.
I choose to wear the poppy for a different reason. I choose to wear it because as a woman with Native ancestry, I want to remember those whose faces we never see in the Heritage moments or on the Remembrance Day TV spots. While we remember the many veterans who fought in the many wars Canada has been involved in, the iconic images of these veterans are whitewashed.
My main reason for abstaining from wearing a Remembrance poppy is that I'm starting to feel like it represents a support for all of my country's military action, not just the sacrifices made by soldiers in past wars. It's as if by wearing it I'm giving my tacit agreement to Canada's activities in Afghanistan, or the ways that women are mistreated in the Canadian Forces. The truth is, though, that I don't want our military engaged in any kind of action; I don't want to feel like I have the blood of civilians (or, well, anybody) on my hands. I also feel deeply uncomfortable about a number of things that happen within military culture.
October also brings in a day that commemorates what should be a part of our daily activities but for many is either forgotten or simply ignored: handwashing. It's not a surprise as handwashing is not considered -- other than perhaps in the public health field -- to be an incredibly important part of living.
People worldwide can be forgiven for their sense of bewilderment at the constant back and forth between military and diplomatic solutions to the crisis in Syria. We've now been at this long enough for commentators to reverse their positions depending on the most recent developments. But there is one group -- a huge one -- for whom none of this really matters: refugees.
The Canadian Forces are able to go to a foreign, hostile land like Afghanistan and realize unparalleled feats. In addition to its impressive list of accomplishments, one wonders: Is there anything our Canadian military can't do? Um. Well. It turns out there is a challenge the military cannot meet. It's recruiting women and minorities right here at home.
The Conservatives' militarism is unrelenting. Last month, the Harper government launched a Civil Military Leadership Pilot Initiative at the University of Alberta. The program "allow[s] people to simultaneously obtain a university degree while also gaining leadership experience in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) Reserves." The four-year Civil Military Leadership Pilot Initiative will be "co-directed by the University of Alberta and the CAF" and the government hopes to export this "test model" to other universities. The program is an attempt to reestablish the Canadian Officer Training Corps, which was offered at universities from 1912 until 1968.
The Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry is preparing for its centennial anniversary in one year. Started in 1914 to aid the British in World War 1, the lionized Canadian infantry regiment turns 100 in 2014. Globally, the history of the PPCLI is unparalleled for its valour, honour and distinguished service on behalf of all Canadians.
The Conservatives' latest casualty is the Maple Leaf rank designation. The ranks of non-commissioned officers will also be returned to the original British Army designations. Defence Minister Peter MacKay claims the changes don't strip away any Canadian identity. But that's exactly what it does. The Maple Leaf rank designation is as Canadian as poutine and hockey. Let's not throw away our uniqueness, eh.
The historic Christmas adage "peace to those of goodwill" takes on an attractive ring for a country that once built its international reputation on fighting to preserve peace in troubled regions. It's time for the military thinkers to come to terms with the reality that Canadians will remain a peaceful people who desire that same blessing for people around the world.