Today is Remembrance Day. So let me just start by honoring all soldiers who died defending their country during war, be them Quebecers, Canadians, Americans, Frenchmen, Japanese or Russians. On a more personal note, I would like to honor my two great grandfathers who served in the Canadian army during the First and Second World War. I am honored by their sacrifice and will forever cherish the freedom that they fought to protect.
But this day is also a good day to reflect upon the apparent changes in Canadian foreign policy since the coming-to-power of the Harper government in 2006. I'm writing this because many progressive Canadians and Quebecers believe that what used to be a peacekeeping Canadian army has, under Harper's leadership, turned into an Americanized, ruthless killing machine. In fact, I think this assertion is wrong: Aside from a surge in spending, there are not that many differences between the way things are right now and what they supposedly were in the "golden age of Canadian peacekeeping."
First of all, a lot of this perception has to do with the Canadian army's presence on Afghan soil. May I remind our readers that it was in 2001, under Jean Chrétien's Liberal government, that Canadian soldiers were sent to Kabul? It was only weeks after the tragedy of 9/11, and most Canadians were at that time eager to serve along their American allies and friends in capturing or killing those responsible for the death of 3,000 innocents. I would also keep in mind that during the last general election campaign that took place just a month ago, the differences between Harper and Stephan Dion on Afghan policy were almost nonexistent. Both agreed on a 2011 withdrawal from combat missions, both draped themselves in Lester B. Pearson's legacy of a peacekeeping and democracy-protecting Canadian army.
Second, under any Canadian government, the Arctic Sea would have been militarized. Paul Martin's government gave such signals in 2004 and 2005, and Harper effectively captured the issue during the 2008 campaign. So here again, not much difference.
Third, does anyone believe that after stretching our army into Afghanistan and suffering a toll of more than 100 casualties, Canadians wold be ready to embark upon dangerous peacekeeping missions in Darfur or Congo? I think not!
I'll just conclude with these words from an op-ed piece in the National Post this morning:
For too long, our politicians, academics and educators have tried to bury or even deny our true military history, insisting we have never been a warrior nation. And while it is true that we have never as a culture glorified war, neither have we backed away.
Lest we forget.