Madmen targeting our troops and Parliament. Extreme weather. Russian planes buzzing our warships; Russian bombers in the Arctic. Domestic terror. Ukraine. Islamic State. From foreign foes to homegrown disaster, we rely on the Canadian Forces to save us. Recently, Canada's military has come under deliberate, sustained attack. In fact, our Forces may already have been vanquished. Not by an enemy, but by the nation it defends.
It's not the equipment problems -- though those are bad enough. With submarines that can't submerge, helicopters that can't fly, aircraft parts taken from museums, supply ships banned from foreign waters, guns manufactured for storming Normandy, and ammunition budgets slashed to where soldiers are shouting BANG! during training, the Canadian Forces is the laughingstock of NATO.
But our Forces always make do. From the Ross Rifle debacle of the Great War, to the infamous absence of desert camouflage when we invaded Afghanistan, our military is used to having poor quality or inadequate equipment. Every government promises to address this and none do, which is why our end-of-life CF-18s are defending Ukraine and off to bomb Iraq. Undoubtedly, if the planes should experience critical failure, our pilots will be savvy enough to crash on the enemy. Ottawa will commend their bravery... and dispense with the missile budget altogether.
We have a military to be proud of. They have done so much, for so long, with so little, that they have earned a world-class reputation for professionalism. Elite squads can fight with little gear, but Canada's military can go with nothing at all.
The one thing any modern volunteer military must have is the guaranteed support of their nation. Military personnel do not serve for paycheques. Nor do they serve for pride. They serve because they believe that their country requires such service. With that service is the implicit understanding that when sacrifice of body-mind-life is required, the nation is responsible for mitigating the damage. PM Robert Bordon affirmed that in 1917 before Vimy Ridge, declaring, "The government and the country will consider it their first duty to prove to the returned men its just and due appreciation of the inestimable value of the services rendered to the country."
That commitment lets our troops dive into harm without thought for themselves. That knowledge enabled Canadian troops to earn their reputations as fierce fighters, supreme rescuers, and staunch defenders of Canadians and of humanity. Faith in Canada's support is the one thing our Forces absolutely, positively must have to be effective.
But that was taken away last year, bringing the days of selflessly charging into danger to a crashing halt.
A courtroom in BC in June, 2013: Veterans are suing Canada for fair compensation. Crown lawyers declare that the Government of Canada is not obligated to provide for veterans. Or to serving members. Or bound by the arrangements of any previous governments. That there is no covenant with the troops.
Civilians may dismiss this as just a legal strategy, but consider that the Crown Defence is under direction of the Attorney General of Canada -- which makes renders those arguments Harper Government policy statements. So that "legal strategy" marks the official Government end to supporting the troops, ribbon magnets or not. The Harper Government's constant erosion of benefits and entitlements demonstrates their "not-obligated" position: the closure of VAC offices; cuts to veterans services; refusal to pay relocation costs for forcing serving members; dismissal of wounded members just before qualifying for pensions; paltry pain and suffering compensation; and myriad other nastiness. No matter how often the Conservatives say they support the troops, their policies scream the opposite. This denial of responsibility not only represents a massive betrayal of trust, it backstabs every serving member. The Government of Stephen Harper yanked the spine from our military.
A year after crippling the Forces, the Harper Government still expects our Forces to put aside its safety and ignore risk. Continue to rescue stranded fishermen, lost children, entire communities hit by floods, snow, ice, fire or disease. Defend the coasts, the Arctic... and Ukraine. Now the Forces are off to Iraq with nothing but a lip-service statement of support from Ottawa. The Canadian Forces must bear all of the risks with none of the surety.
For 100 years, the Canadian military could be counted upon to do the most with the least. Without guns, without uniforms, the Canadians have always punched above their weight because of the disregard for self which is achieved through knowing your nation is there to pick up your pieces. Time and again they prevailed because they never thought once about the risk. Now, they are thinking twice. Where once Canadian troops were fearless, now they are fearful. In military situations, hesitation can be fatal -- for them and for us.
As for our future security...who will even serve in the Forces? Who will stand on guard while Canada abandons them?
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