Continuing with my military theme for a bit longer, I have to wonder about our new Conservative government.
File this as another "What are they thinking?" item.
So, after falsely accusing the opposition parties of wanting to "cut and run" in Afghanistan, after paying a much hyped and hardly secret visit there last month, after trying to hide behind the "support our troops" canard in order to avoid debate, what does our new Conservative government do?
They stop the practice of lowering flags on all government buildings to half-mast in honour of our fallen troops.
From today's Ottawa Citizen:
The Ottawa Citizen
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
The decision to stop lowering national flags to half-staff when a Canadian soldier dies in Afghanistan is a return to an 80-year old tradition broken by the previous government, Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor said yesterday.
"For the last 80 years, our national tradition has been to honour all (Canadian troops killed in service) on the same day in a national Remembrance Day ceremony," said Mr. O'Connor.
But during the tenure of Jean Chretien and Paul Martin, the Prime Minister's Office requested that Canadian flags at government buildings and on the Peace Tower be lowered when soldiers are killed in Afghanistan. Stephen Harper's Conservative government -- citing Canada Heritage flag-lowering protocol -- will not make those provisions.
"We've reverted back to the tradition," said Defence spokesman Jae Malana, adding that it was previous Liberal governments that broke tradition, not the current Conservative government.
Mr. Malana said the official policy is not to lower flags for every casualty unless the Prime Minister's Office makes a request.
The three soldiers who have died in Afghanistan since Mr. Harper took office have not had flags lowered on all government buildings, most notably the Peace Tower.
Mr. O'Connor said that "the protocol clearly states" flags will be only be half-staffed for a soldier's death in specific locations: the soldier's operational base, home base and the National Defence Headquarters, from the day of death to the day of the funeral, and all flags within the soldier's service (Army, Navy or Air Force) on the day of the funeral.
Liberal defence critic Ujjal Dosanjh said the previous Liberal governments recognized that protocol, but lowered flags regardless.
"It was appropriate to change that," said Mr. Dosanjh. "I believe lowering the flag is the least a government can do."
The Liberal government began the flag-lowering policy in 2002, when four Canadian soldiers died in a friendly fire incident with a U.S. pilot in Afghanistan. The policy continued until last month, after the Conservatives took office.
But Mr. Dosanjh said the issue should not become one of partisanship.
"The fact that the Liberals started the tradition of flags at half-mast for every soldier is not the point," he said. "And it should not be a political point.
"That practice should continue."© The Ottawa Citizen 2006
Frankly, I don't care who came up with it, lowering all the flags on government buildings, including the House of Commons, to honour a fallen soldier is right and appropriate and a new tradition that should be started and maintained. I would hope that the Conservatives reinstate this practice.
Or they can stop the hollow blathering about "supporting the troops" when they can't be bothered to lower a flag.