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The official website of Paul Franklin: a father, veteran, activist, motivational speaker, and proud Canadian.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Is Canada a warrior nation?

Canada is often thought of a peacekeeping nation that has little time or 
need for war.
  The truth, as so often the case, is different than common belief.
Canada in 1700
Ever since the first Europeans stepped foot onto North America they entered a battlefield, the native people had been in a constant state of warfare for thousands of years.  The Vikings, Spanish, French and English did not help the matter and of course in many cases caused genocidal human suffering.  All that being said there has been something that Canadians, be they English, French or native, have brought to the table.
Canadians are a warriors.
If one was to qualify what makes someone a great soldier, fighter or policeman then the idea of strength of character, independence, an ability to accept orders and of course a strong inner physical strength.  These are the very things that make someone succeed who lives in a harsh climate, on the land and in place where central government does not exist.
"Marmaduke Graburn - Primus Moriri (First to die)"  NWMP / RCMP
Many of these characteristics are not what traditionally most of the public would think of as a great strength for soldiers.  Independence in the Canadian ideals has been the bane of the British commanders.  During times of war these independent Canadians have fought with and against our officer cadre.  Sometimes in almost open rebellion to the political or military will.   Recent RCMP officers that have openly complained to politicians about their civilian boss or of soldiers in the trenches in World War 1 refusing to enter the kill zone for what they saw as no good reason.  Independence doesn't have to mean a negative thing though it isn't a rebellion.  The soldiers, militia and policeman simply ask to know the reasons why they fight and push to make sure that the command structure really understands the costs.  

Canada has had soldiers fight in almost all the British wars of the last few centuries.  From the French English wars, the American War of Independence (on both sides),  the Napoleonic wars, the Crimea War, the Riel Rebellion (on both sides), Indian Mutiny,  the Fenian Raids, the Boer war, WW1, Spanish Civil War, WW2, Korean conflict, Vietnam (fighting as volunteers in the American Forces), First Gulf War, Afghanistan, and the Second Gulf War.  This doesn't count the number of citizens that fought in the cold war and various peacekeeping missions across the world.  

Natives from the far North to the Pacific to the Atlantic have fought with honour in almost all major conflicts.  Mohawk and Ojibaw natives were part of a Canadian contingent of Voyageurs that led a British relief mission up the Nile during the Gordon Relief Expedition (Mahidist War Sudan) of 1884.  Pte Tomas Prince a native from Manitoba received the  Military Medal and  US Silver Star "for exceptional bravery and gallentry" (a member of the Devils Brigade Special Service Force, France 1944, also fought in Korea with 2 PPCLI) won fame for his actions in almost single handly capturing 1000 German and French fighting forces. 

Canada has a confused position of itself as a warrior nation and of itself as a warrior people.  We like to think of ourselves as peaceful and the the true reality is that we are warriors that do not seek conflict but will go when summoned.  We will succeed when needed and will ensure that any sacrifice we make will be honoured even if it takes a lifetime.  

Lester B. Pearson and his creation of the idea of peacekeeping is what many of the Canadian public like to see as our end state in the concept of world conflicts. In reality he saw the UN peacekeepers as stepping in and enforcing peace and even separating them if need be.   The creation of the United Nations Emergency Force (1956) and the calm it provided to the belligerents in the Suez Crisis showcased Canada as a middle power broker on the world stage.  Suddenly we stepped out from under our mothers umbrella and have become a country with its own foreign policy. Some may argue that Canada had simply left British policy for that of the United States.  That is not true as our common beliefs, legal, heritage and populations made us closer allies and thus required common defence and security.

Canadians have fought in almost all the wars of the last century and in many cases the century before that.  It should come as no surprise that the modern Canadian Forces has fought so valiantly, intelligently and with a certain moral code in places like Afghanistan, Medek pocket, the first and second Gulf Wars, Kosovo, and in UN peacekeeping missions.  The Canadian soldier will go to war, complain while doing so, work hard to help their fellow veterans, ask questions that they think are important and in the end come home to a Canada that vilifies them for the very job they are good at.
Canadian War Musuem   Ottawa
Canadian warrior history is best viewed in Ottawa at the Museum of Civilisations and the Canadian War Museum, 118 000 Canadians have fallen in wars and peace.
Below is some warriors of note.  
The Canadian Victoria Cross
Canadians have received the VC for heroism under enemy fire in Mesopotamia, Germany, France, the Atlantic, Japan, Sudan, Hong Kong, Myanmar, Belgium, Holland, Italy, South Africa, India, Crimea and even Algeria.  So far 81 Canadians and Newfoundlanders have received a VC and 13 Canadians serving with British units.

Some examples of Canadian VC recipients:
Able Seaman William Hall VC
( for combat in the Indian mutiny (Siege of Lucknow), Hall was the first black person to win a VC, 1857)
Lt. Alexander Dunn VC 
(Crimean War during the Charge of the Light Brigade, 1868)
Pte Timothy O'Hea VC 
(for protecting 600 immigrants, Quebec, 1866)
Asst Surgeon Campbell Douglas 
(for rescuing 8 members of his unit thought to be captured by cannibals, India 1867)

Dr Norman Bethune created the concept of battlefield blood transfusions as well as mobile surgical centres in the Spanish Civil war (1936) that eventually were modelled as MASH units most notably in the Korean conflict. He died in China helping the Communists with their fight against Japanese aggression in 1939.

The only Canadian to receive the Medal of Honour is Peter Lemon for actions while serving with the Unites States Army in Tay Ninh province, Vietnam 1970.

Two units have been given the United States highest award called the Presidential Unit Citation.  The first given to 2 PPCLI for actions in Kapyong, Korea and for JTF 2 for actions in Afghanistan.  
Presidential Unit citation.....(also known as the blue pool)
This is given to a unit that has showcased "extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy."

Flt Lt Christopher Hasler received a Distinguished Flying Cross as Chinook pilot  with the British Forces in Sangin, Afghanistan in 2004.
(its worthy of note that he was rejected for pilot training by the Canadian Forces and instead joined the RAF)
A total of 4, 460 DFC have been awarded to Canadians.

Cpl Rob Furlong while serving in the 3 PPCLI in Afghanistan was once the holder of the longest kill by a sniper (2, 400m) and is now an Edmonton Police Service Officer.  
The rifle Furlong used to kill an enemy from 2,430 m.  
On display at the Calgary War Museum

The five-man Canadian sniper team, included MCpl Graham Ragsdale (Team Commander), MCpl Tim McMeekin, MCpl Arron Perry, Cpl Dennis Eason, and Cpl Rob Furlong, killed over 20, and were awarded Bronze Stars.

Canadian Star of Military Valour  
During the war in Afghanistan there has yet to be a VC given out although there has been 10 Stars of Military Valour and 1 awarded posthumously.  Created in 1993 as  Canadian award for 
"distinguished and valiant service in the presence of the enemy".

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