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When did Canada become so militaristic?

So tomorrow is Remembrance Day, right smack in the middle of Veterans Week.  In the past few weeks, there have been interviews with ex-soldiers on CBC and elsewhere. Rick Hillier’s book is doing well. Afghanada is a radio serial on the MotherCorp and by all accounts is listened to by, if not legions of CBCers, at least a battalion or two. I’ve caught a couple of episodes… good stuff.

Don Cherry cries on the air every Saturday night when a soldier falls.

Red ribbons are everywhere. Many wear red on Fridays. There are public debates on whether the Feds should make Remembrance Day observance mandatory by businesses and schools instead of voluntary, as they are now.

When did this augmented sense of militarism happen. Did I miss the memo? Veterans Week? How long has that been around?

Any reader of this blog will know that I am very much a peacenik. I do not believe in war. At all – with VERY few exceptions.

I do not believe in the military, but know that at this stage of human evolution, military forces will continue to exist for a long time to come.

I do not diss soldiers and certainly wish them well but do not believe in what they do. I admire that they believe that their job is important and that they willingly put their lives on the line in this belief… I simply don’t share their beliefs.

And the fact that my point of view and those of others like me is becoming increasingly marginalized really disturbs me. Canada as a quiet peacekeeping nation was tolerable for a peacenik like me. Canada as a boastful, über-patriotic, militaristic, American-like nation is not.

But how and when did this happen?

It is generally agreed that there has been a marked move to the social right of the political spectrum in this country. The current government in particular, with it’s roots in western social conservatism, has been actively supporting a guns and god agenda. The more that a citizenry feels allegiance to the “flag”, the more likely it will be to turn a blind eye to policies that they may otherwise find distasteful. I’m not saying that Harpy is completely behind all of the renewed rah-rah, but he is a keen strategist who is seizing upon the rightward shift and the tangential increase in support for things traditionally supported by the right – e.g., the military.

There is also the lingering 9-11 effect. I think Canucks, like our southern neighbours, felt more than a bit threatened by the events of that day. We retreated into a comfortable cocoon where we called on the comforts of bygone years to assuage our fears. We, even a bit, looked to the folks holding the guns to protect us from the perceived threat. And when we were not hit by a terrorist plot (at least not yet), we gave an appreciative nod to the cops and the military for a job well-done.

I find that as I age, I am becoming more set in my ways when it comes to my basic belief systems.  For example, I feel much more strongly now than in my 30’s that opposition to war in almost any case is a morally just stance and that there is almost NO moral justification to take up arms. Too much suffering – both by those actively participating in a conflict and by those caught in the cross-fire (civilians) – and, IMHO, to little morally justifiable end.

I do not think we should be engaged in foreign conflicts and believe that it is a completely unnecessary waste of young and talented lives. I mourn these men and women while simultaneously condemning the governments that sent them into harm’s way.

Again, I do not demean these brave folks. But what about those men and women who also put their lives at risk for their country or community? What about the cops? Firefighters and other emergency professionals? Do they not at least merit equal treatment? Many die in the line of duty in acts that are moral and just by any measure. There is seldom ambiguity – especially in the case of firefighters.

I know I’m going to catch some flak for this post. Yet the main reason I have a “blog” is to express my unsolicited opinions and ideas openly and freely and I should not be held back by the prospect of being flamed.

And yes, I will wear a poppy. But only on November 11. And while I am silent for that minute or two, I will think about John Lennon’s words in the hope that no more young Canadian lives are lost in a place where we really shouldn’t be:

“Give peace a chance.”


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  1. It may surprise you that I partially agree with you here. And so bandobras (or anyone else who cares) is aware, I am speaking as a former soldier with 9 years of time in during the last 30 years.

    I, too, am becoming increasingly concerned that people are becoming militaristic without understanding what the ramifications of feeling that way really are. I support the military, and I think that in the world as it is now (and is likely to be in the foreseeable future), a well armed, well trained, professional military force is essential to preserving our basic freedoms. We need people willing to take on this responsibility as long as there are people in the world willing to use force against us. It is, in my opinion, unjustified to fault the soldier – his existence is the consequence of the malfeasance of others, and he’s doing what he feels is right so other people are safe.

    I am not now, nor have I ever been – including when I wore a uniform, a proponent of projecting war on other people. Defend ourselves, do not be the aggressor.

    I’d argue, for example, that the people of Iraq are demonstrably worse off now than they were under Saddam. Canada was absolutely right not to get involved in that fiasco.

    Afghanistan is a bit different. There was, initially, a somewhat solid ground for a limited campaign to achieve specific goals. Unfortunately, that has long been lost. Afghanistan is better off now than they were before, but when foreign forces pull out they’re going to be back to the same-old in a few years… so really, what has been achieved for the mighty cost? What is the benefit to Canada of our continuing participation in the conflict?

    It’s not that I disrespect the soldiers… I pretty well disrespect the people who send them places to die for nothing.

    Sooner, rather than later, some North Korean nutbag is going to go on a rampage, and we’ll all be glad there are soldiers to protect us. Frankly, if things had carried on the way they were going down south, I’d have been expecting US tanks rolling across our borders, and I’d hope that we have enough Canadians with the cojones to fight them back.

  2. bandobras says:

    I can’t believe you could write this especially on the week we celebrate the brave men and women who so rightfully saved the world from the nasties back in the WW’s.
    It should be apparent to anyone that the present effort in Afghanistan is working to perfection. Ever since we got there with the rest of the Nato forces, you know the ones scattered around the North Atlantic, we have seen that the Afghanis have not continued on their spiral to world domination and have not attacked a single Nato nation.
    I’m sorry what’s that, oh, they never did attack a Nato Nation? They have never attacked a Nato Nation? They have in fact seldom if ever attacked anyone who wasn’t in their territory with the exception of a few border skirmishes? They haven’t done anything like that in oh about 1000 yrs but have defeated and thrown out every single occupying power.
    Ah, pardon me, maybe just maybe this has more to do with something other than protecting Canada and Nato.
    ps Thanks for having the courage to write this. And peace and safety to all the warriors. Sooner than later I hope.

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