Wherefore Art Thou Canada – Fallen Veterans’ Families Snubbed By Mean-Spirited Trudeau Government

A cadre of Canadian service members carry the transfer case of Master Corporal Byron Greff, 3rd Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, to a C-130 on Bagram Air Field during a ramp ceremony Oct. 31, 2011. Greff was killed in an Oct. 29 Taliban attack when a vehicle packed with explosives rammed into the armored passenger Rhino Greff was traveling in. Greff served as a NATO Training Mission adviser and instructor, developing trainers to educate Afghan Army service members. (Credit: Senior Airman Kat Lynn Justen/NTM-A photojournalist, 2011)

In what can only be described as a mean-spirited and heartless affront to the families of fallen and wounded soldiers, the Canadian Forces Afghan Memorial was dedicated in Ottawa this week in private after the Trudeau government directed that it not be made a public event.

More than 40,000 Canadian Armed Forces members served in the Afghanistan theatre of operations, which was Canada's largest military deployment since the Second World War. Altogether, 158 Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) soldiers, a Canadian diplomat, a DND contractor, a Canadian journalist who was embedded with the CAF and more than 40 United States Armed Forces members who were under Canadian command during operations lost their lives in Afghanistan. More than 2,000 Canadian military personnel were injured in Afghanistan. Many of the fallen were young – in their mid to late twenties and early thirties.

In May 2014, the former Harper Conservative government announced that a permanent national memorial to Canada's mission in Afghanistan would be constructed in the nation's capital. The memorial was to be unveiled in 2017 and would specifically recognize and honour the hard work, courage and personal sacrifices made by Canadians while in service to their country during the Afghanistan conflict between 2001 and 2014. A budget was set for 5 million dollars for the memorial. The new memorial was to coincide with the repatriation from Afghanistan to Canada of the cenotaph from Kandahar airfield. It would be moved and placed in the new National Defence headquarters in Ottawa. The cenotaph became a symbol for many Canadians of the losses during the Afghan war. Canadian Forces personnel and Afghan employees built it in 2006 and added to the monument over time. (On the cenotaph are 190 plaques that honour Canadian Forces members who died, as well as Foreign Affairs official Glyn Berry, Calgary Herald journalist Michelle Lang, and Marc Cyr, a civilian from a company under contract to the DND. Other plaques honour U.S. military personnel and a civilian member who died while serving under Canadian command).

The Trudeau government cut the funding for a permanent national memorial to Canada's mission in Afghanistan and Veterans Affair Canada decided that the repatriation of the Kandahar cenotaph to the new HQ would suffice. On May 13, a private dedication service was held at the Afghanistan Memorial Hall at the new Canadian Forces National Defence Headquarters. Families of the fallen and wounded veterans were not invited. Attendees included senior Canadian military leadership and Department of Defence bureaucrats.

Prime Minister Trudeau did not attend, choosing instead to fly to Paris to attend the Christchurch Call meeting with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron to honour the victims of the massacre of 51 Muslim worshippers in two New Zealand mosques in March 2019.

Despite the political directive by Veterans Affairs and DND to not publicly honour the fallen in Afghanistan, Canada’s Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance spoke and said that, “The importance of this hall for the families of the Fallen, as well as Canadian Armed Forces and Department of National Defence members, cannot be understated.” He added, “We must maintain the memories of those who fell, and those who returned, from Canada’s mission in Afghanistan. We will remember them.”

It appears the Trudeau government is on a different page. They decreed this week that the new memorial (Afghanistan Memorial Hall) will not be open to the general public and will only be made accessible to families of the fallen upon request. Many Afghan war veterans and their families have long worried that the conflict they fought in will be forgotten by Canadians.

Liberal MP Karen McCrimmon, a former Canadian Forces officer, has said nothing about yet another slight against Veterans by the Trudeau government. McCrimmon was also silent in the days following a town hall meeting in February 2018 when retired corporal Brock Blaszczyk, an amputee who lost his left leg in Afghanistan in 2009, confronted Prime Minister Trudeau about the Liberal promise not to fight veterans in court and pleaded for help. Trudeau responded that Blaszczyk and veterans are “asking for more than we are able to give right now.” 

What Trudeau doesn’t grasp is that the families of the fallen in Afghanistan have given Canada their sons and daughters and have no more to give. Is it too much to ask for the rest of us to give them respect?