Lest we Forget
It is funny
how it took someone in England to put it into words......
Salute to a brave and modest nation - Kevin Myers , 'The Sunday
Until the deaths of Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan , probably
almost no one outside their home country had been aware that
are deployed in the region.
And as always, Canada will 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
then, once the crisis is over, to be well and truly ignored.
Canada is the perpetual wallflower that stands on the edge of
waiting for someone to come and ask her for a dance. A fire
breaks out, she
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 one foot in
the old world and an address in the new one,
and that divided identity ensured that it never fully got the
gratitude it deserved.
Yet it's 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, it's 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
Atlanticagainst 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 has any notion of a
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,
Norman Jewison, David Cronenberg, Alex Trebek, Art Linkletter,
Mike Weir and
Dan Aykroyd Michael Buble, Justin Bieber have in the popular perception become American, and
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, for whom Canada has proved quite unable
to find any takers.
> Moreover, Canada is every bit as querulously alert to the
its sons and daughters as the rest of the world is completely
unaware ofthem. The Canadians proudly say of themselves - and are unheard by
anyone else - that 1% of the world's population has provided 10% of the
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-
Canadianimagination 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
remainssomething of a figure of fun. It is the Canadian way, for
should be proud, yet such honour comes at a high cost. This past
grieving Canadian families knew that cost all too tragically well.
Lest we forget