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Stephen Harper doesn't care about aboriginal people
April 25, 2006 2:40 PM   Subscribe

Arguing the ceremony is only for the families, newly-elected Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has forbidden the media from attending today's arrival of the remains of four Canadian soldiers killed in action in Afghanistan. Mr. Harper has also declined to lower the flag on Parliament Hill to half-staff. Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor, retired soldier and former lobbyist for various defense contracting firms, says his government is returning to the tradition of honouring dead soldiers on November 11, Remembrance Day. Meanwhile, residents of the northern aboriginal community of Kashechawan, plagued by flooding and drinking water problems, are being evacuated, after government promises to repair a dike went unfulfilled. God Bless Canada.
posted by docgonzo (57 comments total)

 
Yeah - for all the media types who said, when Harper was elected, "See?! The sun still rose in the sky, the world didn't end! He's really not going to make us more like Bush's America!" ... you just didn't give it long enough. The stuff in this FPP are just a sampling of the things he's doing to ape the GWB administration.
posted by Zinger at 2:52 PM on April 25, 2006


“It is not about photo-ops and media coverage,” Harper told the House of Commons.

“It is about what is in the best interests of the families.”
(Regarding the exclusion of journalists from the homecoming.)

I would say that the decision to allow journalists to be at the homecoming or not should lie with the families, not Harper.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 2:56 PM on April 25, 2006


Yep, it was only a matter of time before CCRAP started doing stupid stuff. It's just the nature of the beast. I expect the Liberals will be making sure we see a lot of angry veterans in the next week or so.

And when did we stop honouring dead soldiers on Remembrance Day? News to me.
posted by stinkycheese at 2:57 PM on April 25, 2006


I believe that Harper means that dead soldiers will be honoured with a lowered flag ONLY on Remembrance Day.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 2:58 PM on April 25, 2006


Dipsomaniac: I see. Fair enough. I don't really mind about the lowering of the flag. What bothers me is refusing to allow journalists to cover the return of dead Canadian soldiers. That's just rediculous --

The father of the late Sgt. Marcel Leger said the public participation in his son's homecoming in 2002 was something he will cherish forever.

"It was a Canadian thing. It was something we wanted to show all Canadians -- what the cost of their liberty is,' Richard Leger told the CBC.

posted by stinkycheese at 3:04 PM on April 25, 2006


Canada sucks more like America sucks, every day.
posted by wakko at 3:18 PM on April 25, 2006


Well, the CBC is a Commie shit disturber. Better make some cuts there...
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 3:19 PM on April 25, 2006


Allowing media or not should be up to families (and I hope/expect journalists would respect their wishes). Not flying the flag at half-mast is offensive. Such a tiny tiny gesture for their sacrifice and this government refuses? Shame.
posted by raedyn at 3:28 PM on April 25, 2006


From this article:

In an earlier letter to The Globe and Mail, [Defence Minister] O'Connor claimed it was the previous Liberal government that broke with a long-standing tradition of not lowering Parliament Hill flags every time soldiers were killed.

The previous Liberals favoured a policy that "unfairly distinguished some of those who died in Afghanistan from those who have died in current and previous operations," O'Connor said in the letter.

However, back in October 2004, after submariner Lieut. Chris Saunders died in a fire on HMCS Chicoutimi, it was actually a Conservative MP -- James Moore -- who put forward a motion calling for flags on all government buildings to be flown at half-mast.

The motion was passed unanimously and up to now, has been policy ever since.

posted by greatgefilte at 3:29 PM on April 25, 2006


Just two weeks ago, Lincoln Dinning wrote Prime Minister Stephen Harper asking that federal flags be flown at half-mast in the event of future combat deaths.

That bit of civic lobbying became cruelly prescient - and emotional grist for a growing debate - when the Wingham, Ont., policeman's son, Cpl. Matt Dinning, became one of four Canadian soldiers killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan on the weekend.
From: Dead soldier's father lobbied PM for flags at half-mast before Afghan tragedy.
posted by furtive at 3:47 PM on April 25, 2006


I think the flag policy is entirely appropriate. A soldier dying is not an occasion for national mourning, frankly. Are we going to lower the flag for soliders killed in accidents? They, too have given their lives for their country, but we shouldn't be expected to pause and consider every accident - better that they all be remembered together on Nov 11. And better that we not cheapen the lowering of the flag through habitual use.

As for the photos, I'm less comfortable with that, though the comparisons with Bush aren't fair - he forbid the photographing of caskets on the planes. The media is still allowed to take pictures of them being loaded in Afghanistan, just not arriving in Canada. I can see the argument that that's a private ceremony. My preference would be to leave it up to the families, but it doesn't bother me either way.
posted by Dasein at 3:49 PM on April 25, 2006


"Allowing media or not should be up to families"

The CBC -- who, of course, have a dog in this fight -- just reported that some family members said they were counting on the coverage to "be" there, as they cannot get to CFB Trenton.

Politically, I don't really get Harper's decision on the flag; I can see trying to cut down on casket photos, esp. as all indications are the casualty rate will increase. But not lowering the flag? Just looks petty.
posted by docgonzo at 3:51 PM on April 25, 2006


I can see trying to cut down on casket photos, esp. as all indications are the casualty rate will increase. But not lowering the flag? Just looks petty.

That's exactly why it seems the other way around to me - there's little political upside to keeping the flag up; in fact I think this decision was taken a while ago, but only widely reported now. Seems to me to be motivated by a desire to return to tradition.

The photo thing on the other hand, looks more "petty" - calculated for political gain.
posted by Dasein at 4:00 PM on April 25, 2006


I seriously don't understand what Harper was thinking on this. I fail to see how it makes any political sense. Perhaps Harper is copying Bush administration tactics without considering the role a subservient press played in the US. Here, Harper is up to his neck in opposition. It's divided opposition, but he still faces a parliament in majority firmly to the left of his party and a press eager to jump on any misstep. He's going to need a lighter touch if he expects to get anywhere.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 4:01 PM on April 25, 2006


Just awful.

We need cameras to record history, broadcasts as a means of national participation, etc. Sure, there can be some sketchy "media types" who sensationalize, but I don't see that happening here, and one bad apple does not the whole bushel make. This is absolute nonsense.
posted by juiceCake at 4:08 PM on April 25, 2006


In other Conservative news, Harper's "God Bless Canada" at the end of every speech has supposedly got the support of Canadians. (I call Bullshit)

Next is the national anullment of all same-sex marriages performed in Canada since the laws changed.
posted by SSinVan at 4:13 PM on April 25, 2006


oops - was too angry reading the post that I missed the God Bless Canada at the end.
posted by SSinVan at 4:17 PM on April 25, 2006


On the half-mast flags: Harper and crew are probably terrified of what might happen if the casualty rate in Afgahnistan skyrockets and flags start yo-yoing up and down poles all across the country. Every dip of the flag would be a point for the opposition. The last flag to be raised would carry Harper up by the neck, and the last to be lowered would drop his body to the ground.

Therefore I say: let the flags fly at half-mast.
posted by palinode at 4:35 PM on April 25, 2006


You seem to assume that it's a good thing the public freaks out over a few casualties.
posted by Dasein at 4:44 PM on April 25, 2006


Stephen Harper can shove his god straight up his ass.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:50 PM on April 25, 2006


You seem to assume that it's a good thing the public freaks out over a few casualties.

D'you know, wishing to show respect by lowering a flag is hardly 'freaking out'.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 4:56 PM on April 25, 2006


Canada is still lucky in the scheme of things. If the United States flew the flag at half-mast every time a single soldier was killed (Starting in, say 2001) we wouldn't see the flag raised again for almost eight years. Which, coincidentally, is two terms.
posted by Vaska at 5:04 PM on April 25, 2006


Dipsomaniac, I mean you seem to think it's a good thing if the government is defeated because of casualties - if the public freaks out so much they vote against Harper. Did I misunderstand? If I didn't, perhaps you can explain why it's a good thing that the opposition would benefit from anger over a conflict to which they committed Canada in the first place.
posted by Dasein at 5:08 PM on April 25, 2006


Ha! Where are you going to move to now, you whiny American bastards?
posted by Krrrlson at 5:17 PM on April 25, 2006


Uh, Daesin, I haven't said anything about defeating the government with casualties. Perhaps you could point out the bit where you inferred that. I also haven't said that anger over the conflict should benefit the opposition in any way, because that would be politicizing soldiers' deaths in an equally stinky fashion.

But I do think that Harper assumes too much by banning the media from the repatriation of the remains without consulting the families, and I think that even more now that some of the family members have said that they can't be there.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 5:31 PM on April 25, 2006


Dammit. That last comment was to Dasein. Not Daesin. *grumble*
posted by Dipsomaniac at 5:44 PM on April 25, 2006


Maybe now all those people who voted for the Conservatives to "teach the liberals a lesson" will realize that they just cut off their nose to spite their face. Or not. I mean, after watching Bush flame out spectacularly in the US, Canadians went and voted his toady northern counterpart in.
posted by meringue at 5:46 PM on April 25, 2006


Whoa, sorry, I owe you an apology Dipsomaniac. I read your response to my response to palinode's comment, and thought the original comment was yours. Okay, that's what sleep deprivation does to you.

I'm going to go away now.
posted by Dasein at 5:52 PM on April 25, 2006


Eh, no sweat, Dasein. Don't feel the need to leave. I grew up in a military family and I don't like to see soldiers' deaths used as a political tool by anybody (actually, make that pretty much anbody's death, but the military is close to where I lived), so I can react a little more strongly than is perhaps warranted.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 6:17 PM on April 25, 2006


CTV news apparently defied the ban and covered it anyway. Furthermore, they learned that Harper apparently told the Governor General not to attend. Coverage here.
posted by Zinger at 7:18 PM on April 25, 2006


Well, the CTV coverage is a bit vaguer about that. The PMO may have simply asked the GG not to attend and she acquiesced. I think she should have been there, but nobody asked me today.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 7:25 PM on April 25, 2006


"I was told that these decisions are made in consultation with the government, and it's our understanding that the government felt it was better if she did not attend."

I dunno Dipsomaniac, that seems fairly clear cut to me.
posted by Zinger at 7:27 PM on April 25, 2006


CTV actually appeared to be shooting from some distance away, possibly off the grounds of Trenton.

And that's as close as I'm going to come to wading into this, other than to derail with a gripe about one of my little pet peeves:

Flags in general are lowered to half-staff. Half-mast refers only to ships.
posted by evilcolonel at 7:34 PM on April 25, 2006


Heh, I originally typed "half-mast", evilcolonel*, and then thought "that don't look right."

And the evil in me thought Mr. Harper would've said to the GG: "We don't need no darkies there."

* Tom Parker, is that you?
posted by docgonzo at 7:41 PM on April 25, 2006


Zinger, do you see a difference between "We feel that you shouldn't do that" and "Don't do that"? One looks a lot less imperative than the other, to me.

And evilcolonel, Trenton is laid out so that the airfield is at the edge of the base, meaning that CTV could get close to the fence and shoot with a telephoto without ever setting foot on the base itself. It looks like that's what they did. If the coffins had been flown into Borden no pictures like that would have been possible.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 7:44 PM on April 25, 2006


Dipsomaniac, you do you realize that the Governnor General's office can't come right out and say "Harper told us to bugger off?" right?

Saying that 'the government felt it was better if she did not attend' is the diplomatic, politically careful way of saying they were instructed to stay away.
posted by Zinger at 8:55 PM on April 25, 2006


Or it was simply what they said, Zinger. That's all I'm reading into it, because I don't have anything else to support another view.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 9:04 PM on April 25, 2006


Dipsomaniac, I would suggest in this case that the difference in those two statements, lies only in the degree of politeness in the phrasing. In practical effect, they are identical.
While the GG is in theory head of state, in practice, she acts only on the advice of the prime minister.
I read the article as Zinger did, as a very clear statement, in the usual diplomatic phrasing, that she was instructed not to attend. That kind of phasing is used precisely because it allows for the kind of weaselling interpretation by which the government can avoid full responsibilty for such instructions.
posted by Zetetics at 9:06 PM on April 25, 2006


They may be identical to your interpretation, but I'm not going to reach into what someone *may have meant by it. Frankly, there's enough political shenanigans using these deaths flying around already.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 9:10 PM on April 25, 2006


I'm unfamiliar with the shenanigans, but I fail to understand what implication you are resisting here. The Governor General's office stated that, in consultation, the government felt it better that she not attend and, subsequently, she did not. How do you imagine that things might have occurred differently, given those facts?
posted by Zetetics at 9:34 PM on April 25, 2006


I imagine that the GG's office may not have been summarily dictated to by the PMO, Zetetics, until I see something that's more than an assumption that that's what happened.

I can see that it just may have been more even-handed than what you and Zinger have inferred, because I don't have a direct line to Michelle Jean's thoughts and her reasons for not attending. I won't be so presumptive as to say what actually happened, but it seems that others aren't so restrained.

These are the shenanigans to which I referred.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 9:46 PM on April 25, 2006


docgonzo posted "Arguing the ceremony is only for the families, newly-elected Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has forbidden the media from attending today's arrival of the remains of four Canadian soldiers killed in action in Afghanistan."

Good.



docgonzo posted "Mr. Harper has also declined to lower the flag on Parliament Hill to half-staff."

Bad.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:53 PM on April 25, 2006


While the decision should rest with the families of the dead, I'm not offended by the media ban.
It feels more more private, more dignified, more... Canadian to do it this way. We've lost soldiers, but others have lost sons, fathers, and husbands. I respect their sacrifice, but I don't need to rubberneck.
As for the half-staff flag thing; well, we are at war.
Better it stay up 364 days a year than yo-yo 'til it looses all meaning.

The title of this FPP is a bit disingenuous, tho. Cretien(A former Indian Affairs Minister) and Martin(Part Metis) didn't care about Aboriginals either, and for a hell of a lot longer.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:56 PM on April 25, 2006


I was not certain that keeping the media out of it was good or bad until I heard the interview on As It Happens this morning with a the father of one of the Canadian soldiers who died in Afghanistan 4 years ago.

Now I feel certain that it is wrong, and insidious, but not as wrong as Harper not actually showing up. Adding insult to injury to the families of the dead: real classy.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:20 PM on April 25, 2006


I imagine that the GG's office may not have been summarily dictated to by the PMO. . .

Well, it is the nature of the GG's office that it is summarily dictated to (albeit very politely) by the PMO, which office is responsible for her appointment in the first place.
I see now that perhaps you may be suggesting that there may have been good reason for her absence apart from the PMO's feeling on the matter? I'm sure that if the statement from the GG's office is somehow misleading, we will see further clarification. In the meantime, the statement we do have unambiguously attributes the decision to the government.
posted by Zetetics at 10:30 PM on April 25, 2006


at the end of every speech has supposedly got the support of Canadians.

It gets the support of 650 Canadians out of a population of 32.5 million people (makes it easier to realize how full of it pollsters are when you remove the all the clap trap associated with the spin).

The Governor General's office stated that, in consultation, the government felt it better that she not attend and, subsequently, she did not.

Which I think is pretty screwed up recommendation considering she is the (symbolic) Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.
posted by squeak at 10:57 PM on April 25, 2006


I heard an anecdotal story that the Canadian flag was at half-staff (thank you, evilcolonel) for most of WW2. Does anyone know if this is true?

I can live with not raising and lowering the flag on the Peace Tower everytime somebody dies for Canada, but for the government to ask our GG not to attend funerals gets my tail slapping... Dear Your Excellency...

Alvy Ampersand, I don't like Chretien, but I think he had some good ideas about the Indian Act.
posted by angrybeaver at 11:56 PM on April 25, 2006


So far this year, the flag has been lowered for Glyn Berry (Death of Canadian in Afghanistan), Shirley Maheu (Senator), Stephen Worobetz (former Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan), Vimy Ridge Day, Day of Mourning for Persons Killed or Injured in the Workplace (!!) and for Jobie Nutarak (Speaker of the Nunavut Legislative Assembly).

If we can lower the flag for these people, than surely we can honour our soldiers in Afghanistan who have given their lives.
posted by angrybeaver at 12:30 AM on April 26, 2006


My buddy's brother, who does a fair bit of blogging about Canadian politics, weighed in on this yesterday. Actually, I guess he was only agreeing with the National Post, but I don't have a link to that article. The money quote from the Post is this:
That debate may be defined thus: Are we at war against the Taliban, or are we at peace? If the former, then military casualties are an expected, if tragic, consequence of our deployment. If the latter, and our soldiers are to be seen as peacekeepers, not combatants, then every death should be regarded as an aberration and, therefore, an occasion for national anguish and soul-searching.
An interesting position to take. I don't really have any opinion on it either way, but I thought it brought up some interesting points.

As for the banning of media from the returning soldiers' ceremoney? It does kinda stink of "No pictures of the flag draped coffins, please" - for somebody who ran such a media savvy campaign, Harper seems to be missing out on some of the subtleties of media interpretation now.
posted by antifuse at 1:37 AM on April 26, 2006


The title of this FPP is a bit disingenuous, tho. Cretien(A former Indian Affairs Minister) and Martin(Part Metis) didn't care about Aboriginals either, and for a hell of a lot longer.

Well, no. I'm not going to defend the record of JC or PM but I will point out that PM made some important advancements on housing and residential schools -- all of which Mr. Harper looks set to roll back. Oh, and Mr. Harper's government said not one word about aboriginal issues in their recent speech from the throne. So I think it's incorrect to draw an equivalency.

And anyway, the title is a riff on Kanye West's dig at Dubya after Katrina and a part of the theme that Harper's recent actions echo Dubya's.
posted by docgonzo at 5:51 AM on April 26, 2006


If Harper was killed tomorrow we'd lower the flag for him. I am more inclined to show my respect for the soliders than our PM just because he's the PM.

Next is the national anullment of all same-sex marriages performed in Canada since the laws changed. - SSinVan

To be fair to Harper, he said he's respect all the existing marriages, he just wouldn't allow any new ones. Still stupid, but a different story.

CTV actually appeared to be shooting from some distance away, possibly off the grounds of Trenton. - evilcolonel

From the CTV article that Zinger linked to: CTV's remote TV truck used a camera on top of its mast to capture images of the event from outside the fence at CFB Trenton. So I'd say you're probably right.
posted by raedyn at 7:18 AM on April 26, 2006


Saying that 'the government felt it was better if she did not attend' is the diplomatic, politically careful way of saying they were instructed to stay away. - Zinger

Exactly. But even if all they said was "you might consider not attending, I think it would be best" how does that make sense? Why is it better for her not to attend? Isn't she (in place of the Queen) the Commander-in-Chief of the military? No media, no PM, and no Governor General. The combination of all three does kind of smell.
posted by raedyn at 7:24 AM on April 26, 2006


Cheney's coming bird hunting in Canada real soon now.

Dubya hearts Harper.
posted by nofundy at 8:46 AM on April 26, 2006


I eagerly await our news media deciding it's had enough of Harper's bullshit.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:44 AM on April 26, 2006


No media, no PM, and no Governor General. The combination of all three does kind of smell.

Agreed.


I eagerly await our news media deciding it's had enough of Harper's bullshit.


FFF, I recommend you email CTV to let them know you supported what they did to defy this ban (assuming you do).
posted by Zinger at 2:42 PM on April 26, 2006


True enough, docgonzo & angrybeaver.
Although I didn't vote for the Conservatives and will never be able to fully support them, I'm wary of idealizing the Liberals and blaming our current government for mistakes they haven't caused.
I'm sure they'll make plenty of their own in due time, though.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:02 PM on April 26, 2006


Soldier's father lashes out at PM during funeral. Footage of return of bodies called 'the video that Mr. Harper wouldn’t let you see'
posted by zarah at 3:57 PM on April 29, 2006


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