A time to rebuild
It was supposed to have been a mission to keep the peace, but a Somalie youth died at the hands of Canadian paratroopers. In the lengthy, though curtailed inquiry that followed, charges of cover-up were directed at some of the most senior officers in the Canadian military. Most would agree it is the brightest blemish on the Armed Forces service record to date. Incidences like hazing in the paratroopers, charges of bribery in relation to the Haiti mission and the questionable actions of a submarine commander, only added to the stain of what was once a respected profession.
Somalia Inquiry commissioner Peter Desbarats brought the troubles of the peace-keeping mission and its handling to Western yesterday.
But if you're looking for positive coverage of the Canadian Armed Forces you'll have to dig deep into the archives. Not so long ago peacekeeping was considered Canada's forté. We are still actively involved in that front, but when was the last time you heard the actions of our troops in places like Bosnia and Haiti applauded?
Indeed there once was a time when Canadian youth thought the defence of "God and Country" was an honoured responsibility, but in Canada today, when a member of our military family gets into trouble it doesn't make for polite dinner conversation. That loss of respect manifests itself in the apparent apathy of students on Remembrance Day. Only last week, protesters at the University of Toronto condemned former American President George Bush for the actions of United States forces and by extension, Canadian troops, in the Gulf War.
To be sure, war is horrible, but it was through war that the rights of young Canadians were won. The Canadian military has also come to the defence of this nation's citizens on a great many occasions. Historically, it was thousands of lives lost while fighting in the World Wars for the freedom of the globe. Most recently and closer to home, the military's Manitoba flood efforts greatly helped fellow Canadians fight disaster in a time of need.
If anything the actions which resulted from the Somalia Inquiry, including a new commanding officer for the Canadian military, have recognized the fact that institutions are led from the top down.
Budget cuts in recent years, which forced the closure of armed forces schools including British Columbia's Royal Rhodes, have severely restricted military education opportunities in this country.
Canada is not a country with military strength, it is one which must continue to have courageous soldiers willing to uphold peace. The youth of today are the ones who will fight for the peace of tomorrow whether in the classroom or in war-torn countries needing aid. Our military guns may be silent but our efforts speak volumes for this country.