It was about the men and women who signed up, particularly those that did not return. Lest We Forget

November 3, 2013

By Ray Rivers

BURLINGTON, ON.  At the end of WWII Canada had the third largest navy in the world, the fourth largest air force and the largest volunteer army ever fielded.  Since that time we have participated in over 200 international military operations though, with the exception of Korea and Afghanistan, these were largely peacekeeping or international policing exercises.

The only nation which has ever invaded Canada was the USA and they are unlikely to ever do that again since we beat them in 1814.  Besides, if they did invade what would we do?  Even during the 50‘s cold war Canada was never threatened, except perhaps in our minds. 

National War Memorial – Ottawa

So in the late sixties, the Canadian government swallowed a reality pill and changed the role of our military from fighting to peacekeeping.  We downsized our war machine, unified the three branches of the armed services and focused on what was most important – finding the path to peace.  Hey, and even with a smaller and presumably less effective fighting machine nobody invaded us.

However our current PM is a big promoter of the military, in fact, the biggest we’ve had since the second world war.  He has plowed a tonne of money into military hardware such that Canada is now the 13th or 14th biggest arms spender in the world and the 6th among NATO members.  Our military budget rose 42% over the ten years ending 2008, he’s changed the names of the air and naval forces as if to restore the good old glory days, and he has his eye on some fancy fighter jets and other toys.

This past week we celebrated Remembrance Day.  Always a solemn day, this year our veterans had another reason to be sad.  You see the Conservatives introduced the Veterans Charter in 2006, under which a lump sum cash payment has replaced life-long after-service care for disabled vets.  It may have sounded like a good idea at the time but the reality has bitten hard.  Since the Charter was enacted our vets have been increasingly concerned that the lump sum will be inadequate to cover all the costs relating to their conditions as they age.  This is especially true for the younger returned soldiers. 

Nobody makes a greater sacrifice for the nation than our men and women who put their lives in harm’s way for us – principally our soldiers, police and firefighters.  When they are injured in the line of duty we owe them.  It is something to dedicate a day of remembrance with music, wreaths and parades.  But it is something else to do the right thing by these heroes and make sure we have got their backs covered, now when they need us most.   Canada has been spending a lot of money on military hardware lately, let us not forget our obligations to those who have put their lives ahead of ours. 

Ray Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was a candidate for provincial office in Burlington where he ran against Cam Jackson in 1995, the year Mike Harris and the Common Sense Revolution swept the province. He developed the current policy process for the Ontario Liberal Party.


Canada’s armed forces

13th biggest military spender

Veteran’s Charter    Does the Veteran’s charter need a change?


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2 comments to It was about the men and women who signed up, particularly those that did not return. Lest We Forget

  • Fred Pritchard

    Ray – wonderful article. My father joined the war when he turned 18. Thankfully he did come back. But of great concern is the way Harper treats those who come back with less then what they went with. Those men and women, who lost an eye, or an arm or have mental health issues are seen as a burden by the Harper Government. They would rather spend hundreds of millions of dollars on their friends consulting businesses, or in CON friendly ad firms to run partisan ads on TV.

    When my father became ill and wheelchair bound, we had the good fortune of having the support of the Sunnybrook Vet Hospital. Here, they took very good care of him and spared no expense to make him comfortable during his illness and provided him the opportunity to enjoy his last few years and ultimately a dignified death.

    The Harper Governmet would rather write a one time cheque to dispose of our mentally and physcially damaged veterans. Like they were paying someone to haul a tank to a scrap yard. They are only focused on the new tank and new planes, not the people who operate them.

    The Harper “Government” would rather cheat people out of a pension by firing them before they qualify for said pension.

    The Harper Government is offside on many issues that are important to Canadians, but this one I think is the worst example of his so called leadership. Shame on Mr Harper and his sheep for allowing this to happen.

    We must remember those who died, but what about the living Mr Harper?

    • Ray Rivers

      Thanks for your comment Fred – further to what you wrote, I have to say I am disgusted by the current ads on wireless communications, slamming our
      Canadian based companies, in particular. I also question the utility of those wasteful Action Plan ads.