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Canadian Military Record Praised -- by a Brit

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Goonie, Jan 11, 2007.

  1. Goonie

    Goonie Lonely End of the Rink

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    I remember reading this when it first came out. I have seen a number of disparaging comments about Canada's military history recently. I felt as though this exert was appropriate--if for nothing else than a learning exercise.


    Sunday Telegraph Article From today's UK wires: Salute to a brave and modest nation Kevin Myers, The Sunday Telegraph


    LONDON - Until the deaths last week of four Canadian soldiers accidentally killed by a U.S. warplane in Afghanistan, probably almost no one outside their home country had been aware that Canadian troops were deployed in the region. And as always, Canada will now bury its dead, just as the rest of the world as always will forget its sacrifice, just as it always forgets nearly everything Canada ever does.


    It seems that Canada's historic mission is to come to the selfless aid both of its friends and of complete strangers, and then, once the crisis is over, to be well and truly ignored. Canada is the perpetual wallflower that stands on the edge of the hall, waiting for someone to come and ask her for a dance. A fire breaks out, she risks life and limb to rescue her fellow dance-goers, and suffers serious injuries. But when the hall is repaired and the dancing resumes, there is Canada, the wallflower still, while those she once helped glamorously cavort across the floor, blithely neglecting her yet again.


    That is the price Canada pays for sharing the North American continent with the United States, and for being a selfless friend of Britain in two global conflicts. For much of the 20th century, Canada was torn in two different directions: It seemed to be a part of the old world, yet had an address in the new one, and that divided identity ensured that it never fully got the gratitude it deserved.


    Yet its purely voluntary contribution to the cause of freedom in two world wars was perhaps the greatest of any democracy. Almost 10% of Canada's entire population of seven million people served in the armed forces during the First World War, and nearly 60,000 died. The great Allied victories of 1918 were spearheaded by Canadian troops, perhaps the most capable soldiers in the entire British order of battle.


    Canada was repaid for its enormous sacrifice by downright neglect, its unique contribution to victory being absorbed into the popular Memory as somehow or other the work of the "British." The Second World War provided a re-run. The Canadian navy began the war with a half dozen vessels, and ended up policing nearly half of the Atlantic against U-boat attack. More than 120 Canadian warships participated in the Normandy landings, during which 15,000 Canadian soldiers went ashore on D-Day alone. Canada finished the war with the third-largest navy and the fourth-largest air force in the world.


    The world thanked Canada with the same sublime indifference as it had the previous time. Canadian participation in the war was acknowledged in film only if it was necessary to give an American actor a part in a campaign in which the United States had clearly not participated - a touching scrupulousness which, of course, Hollywood has since abandoned, as it hasn't any notion of a separate Canadian identity.


    So it is a general rule that actors and filmmakers arriving in Hollywood keep their nationality - unless, that is, they are Canadian. Thus Mary Pickford, Walter Huston, Donald Sutherland, Michael J. Fox, William Shatner, Norman Jewison, David Cronenberg, Alex Trebek, Art Linkletter and Dan Aykroyd have in the popular perception become American, and Christopher Plummer, British. It is as if, in the very act of becoming famous, a Canadian ceases to be Canadian, unless she is Margaret Atwood, who is as unshakably Canadian as a moose, or Celine Dion.


    Moreover, Canada is every bit as querulously alert to the achievements of its sons and daughters as the rest of the world is completely unaware of them. The Canadians proudly say of themselves - and are unheard by anyone else - that 1% of the world's population has provided 10% of the world's peacekeeping forces. Canadian soldiers in the past half century have been the greatest peacekeepers on Earth - in 39 missions on UN mandates, and six on non-UN peacekeeping duties, from Vietnam to East Timor, from Sinai to Bosnia.


    Yet the only foreign engagement that has entered the popular non-Canadian imagination was the sorry affair in Somalia, in which out-of-control paratroopers murdered two Somali infiltrators. Their regiment was then disbanded in disgrace - a uniquely Canadian act of self-abasement for which, naturally, the Canadians received no international credit.


    So who today in the United States knows about the stoic and selfless friendship its northern neighbour has given it in Afghanistan? Rather like Cyrano de Bergerac, Canada repeatedly does honourable things for honourable motives, but instead of being thanked for it, it remains something of a figure of fun.


    It is the Canadian way, for which Canadians should be proud, yet such honour comes at a high cost. This week, four more grieving Canadian families knew that cost all too tragically well.
     
  2. Leonel

    Leonel Breakfast Connoisseur

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    Wow that's... beautiful.
     
  3. Desmond Hawkins

    Desmond Hawkins Deity

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    That was pretty good. It does rub me the wrong way when Canadian achievements in WWI are labelled as "British". People shouldn't do things for 'publicity', but it is nice to see Canadian achievements recognized.
     
  4. Shylock

    Shylock Hey smiling strange

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    I like Canada. I'd live there if it weren't for the socialism.
     
  5. History_Buff

    History_Buff Knight of Cydonia

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    Indeed. It's amazing how we're regarded as weak militarily, just because the current forces have been rolled back till we need them again. In WWI, Canadian troops were the best there were. We took Vimy Ridge after both the French and British tried and failed. If it needed doing, Canadians were there. In Gallipoli, a Newfoundland regiment was among the ANZACs, and nearly every one of was killed or wounded. Now we have ANZAC day and bay, and everyone forgets newfoundland was ever there.

    In Dieppe, Canadians were called to to try and crack fortress Europe. With no support, they were doomed to fail, but they gave it a hell of a shot. On D-Day, we got a whole beach to ourselves. And who came closest to completing their D-Day objectives? The Canadians. :D


    And what 'socialism' do we have here? I for one thing we use far more of it. Our only real curse is the weather :cringe:
     
  6. QuoVadisNation

    QuoVadisNation keeping your angel alive

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    Very nice. Although I wasn't too knowledgeable on the statistics, I've always known of Canada's achievements. The problem of me (or mostly anyone I guess) for not acknowledging them though is the result of understandable provincialism.
     
  7. Desmond Hawkins

    Desmond Hawkins Deity

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    :lol: You ever been? The differences between Canada and the states are merely by a matter of degree. It is like 35% taxes compared to something like 44% taxes.

    Was your cut off line at 40 or something?
     
  8. Goonie

    Goonie Lonely End of the Rink

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    By the general lack of response, I will assume that most Europeans and Americans already knew all of this. :rolleyes:
     
  9. Taliesin

    Taliesin Puttin' on the Ritz

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    We're also taking the highest casualty rate of any NATO force in Afghanistan at the moment.

    I'm not one to jump up and down and shout about how great our military is, but I do get somewhat irritated when people mock it. Partly because it's due to ignorance of our history, as the article says. We're an adequate middle power these days, but Canada steps up when it's needed. I think it's amazing that Canadians fought Germany for six years without ever sending conscripts overseas.

    I have a personal connection, too, so I sometimes feel offended on behalf of our veterans-- my grandfather and his two best friends served all through the Second World War. Grandpa joined the navy; luckily for my genetic stock (though he didn't see it that way), he could type, so he mostly got office jobs on the east coast. One friend flew in the RCAF, and went MIA on his very last mission; the other was a D-Day Dodger and fought (in Farley Mowat's regiment) through all of Italy, the Netherlands, and right into Berlin. The few stories he's told me are unbelievable: attacking a house in Italy with 35 other troops, and coming out with one other guy; stealing rations from the army truck to give to Dutch citizens; and storming building by building through Berlin, spraying bullets into every room before asking questions. A couple of years ago, he was at a reunion dinner for his regiment, when a car backfired somewhere up the road-- and he was under the table before he knew what he was doing.

    If there's ever true need for an engagement like WWII, I have every confidence that Canada will gear up for war.
     
  10. sysyphus

    sysyphus So they tell me

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    Somebody should just make a major film about the Canadian experience during the wars and that shoudl about cover it. Of course, which aspect of it?

    If nothing else, just once when they talk about the convoys crossing the Atlantic I'd like to hear about them coming from Canada, in most documentaires and films they're always coming from "America".

    Granted, I'd say it's our own fault for always having lived under the shadow of Britain and America. We really should just get over our silly inferiority complex, then maybe people would know what we're really all about, rather than just as a second rate America.
     
  11. Sidhe

    Sidhe Deity

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    Credit where credit is due.
     
  12. pboily

    pboily fingerlickinmathematickin

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    In some sense, this is what I meant when we were talking about the Canadian inferiority complex.

    What difference does it make that nobody else knew/knows we answered the call? We did then what we thought was the right thing to do. (Some of us are still doing that.)

    But I'm not going to get upset because nobody else cares about us, or thinks we're weaklings. Rather, it makes me ask: are there groups of Canadians that we take for granted (either with regards to the military or other things)? We're all so keen in wanting the big boys to invite us to the playing table that we might not realize we're keeping other people away from our table.

    I mean, from my experience, an awful lot of Anglophones think French Canadians are cowards. Who amongst you is writing in defense of them and about le Royal 22e regiment? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_Royal_22e_Regiment)

    And an awful lot of Francophones think Native Americans are lazy profiters who wouldn't lift a finger unless they were cashing their welfare check. Who amongst us is writing in praise of them? (http://www.civilization.ca/academ/articles/mose1_1e.html)

    We don't write about them or praise them for the same reason we do not receive praise from the others: we are too busy with other things that we consider more important.

    It is still a nice piece, and it is good to hear it coming from a Briton, but it leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth...
     
  13. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    You know, Canada could conquer the world, if we really wanted to..

    We're too busy drinking beer and getting laid though.
     
  14. Goonie

    Goonie Lonely End of the Rink

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    Do I think ignorance concerning Canada's military history is due to an inferiority complex? No I do not. I think it has more to do with Canadian mannerisms than anything. It is very un-Canadian to pat yourself on the back. It is not typical for us to carry on about our achievements, and thus others do not notice.

    I fail to see how others not realizing Canadian contributions to wars past and present has anything to do with an inferiority complex. This has nothing to do with being greater or worse than any other country. This is about recognition, for better or for worse.

    Per capita, yes.


    @pboily,
    I do not think any credible modern Canadian historian ever writes in praise (or disdain) of Canadian military achievements while excluding the contributions of the french. I do not think that most Canadians are that exclusionary. Since the war of 1812 Canadians, both french and english ones, have been fighting together.

    You raise a good point about Native participation. Played a part in our sucesses (1812, WWI, WWII), and our failures (paratroopers).
     
  15. Sidhe

    Sidhe Deity

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    Well I can assure you that the British don't think that. And if anyone else does, I'll personally take issue with them :)
     
  16. pboily

    pboily fingerlickinmathematickin

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    It is not the fact that others don't recognize it that is indicative of the complex, it's the fact that we need others to recognize it that is.

    In the OP, you say

    I am not going to claim that I know why you opened up the thread. I'm sure a lot of it (most, perhaps) had to do with setting the record straight. But I also see a bit of the wallflower in there. I think his analogy is quite accurate, down to the underlying inferiority complex

    We know Canadian military history. We know the sacrifices our parents' generation made. And succeeding generations. Why are we so happy (And we are... at least I was) when somebody else recognizes what we did?

    My thought: we are "angry" that the disparaging comments are made in the first place. I often hear Anglophones (Anglo-Canadians, I mean, and I'm not talking about military historians) complain that the US/World knows nothing about us or cares nothing about us, and I often hear Francophones complain that the RoC cares nothing about us. I haven't often First Nations folks complaining about it, but it has more to do with the fact I don't know any. I'm sure that they also do. No matter where we fall on the ladder, we are appalled at how little the one who is one step above knows about us all the while knowing next to nothing about the other.

    We guffaw when Americans can't locate Edmonton as Alberta's capital, but most of us couldn't name the current Mohawk or Miqmaq leader, say, or Vermont's capitol.

    I still think it's a very moving piece. I also think the fact that it moves us shows the national inferiority complex.

    Cheers.
     
  17. sysyphus

    sysyphus So they tell me

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    Anybody who claims that French Canadians are cowards should be made to watch 5 minutes of footage of Rocket Richard. That's rugged and them some.

    And this is coming from a Leaf fan so you know it has to be true! ;)
     
  18. pboily

    pboily fingerlickinmathematickin

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    Strange... Sean Avery didn't watch the movie he was playing in...
     
  19. sysyphus

    sysyphus So they tell me

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    Montpelier :p


    I disagree. Everyone wants a pat on the back now and again, and yes I think our friends do take us somewhat for granted. Not entirely but somewhat.
     
  20. EdwardTking

    EdwardTking Deity

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    I never knew the Canadians stormed Berlin!?
     

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