Wednesday, April 05, 2006


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:

Joshua Errett
The Ottawa Citizen

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

In otherwords, when the Liberals under Martin and Chretien took a long standing protocol and extended it to, in my opinion, make it better, the Conservatives have decided to discontinue because its not "traditional"? Or is it because it came from the (hated) Liberals?

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.


At 11:39 AM, Blogger Balbulican said...

I remember our Conservative friends losing NO opportunity to jump all over Martin at any sign of what they interpreted lack of respect for the military. This is just the rankest hypocrisy. Getting to be a familiar flavour, though, isn't it?

At 3:59 PM, Blogger alice said...

Perhaps it's akin to the U.S. policy of prohibiting coverage of returning coffins: a flag at half-mast (continually, I mean, let's be realistic) is an inconvenient reminder...

At 10:54 PM, Blogger DazzlinDino said...

Agreed 100% Mike, we now fight wars with minimal casualties on our part, it's not like Vietnam anymore.....

I had been wondering why the flags weren't half masted at the base the body landed at, and I did find out why. Apparantly, the base the soldier was stationed at lowers it flags from the day he was killed until the light dies the day of his funeral. All other bases in the country only lower their flags from sunup to sundown the day of the funeral.

At 9:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with Alice on this one. Perhaps Harper had a vision his new policies in Afghanistan and Iraq would see the flags at half mast every day.
We'll see if Harper follows the Bush remedy and Canadians will not be seeing the bodies of our soldiers and peacekeepers come home.
This isn't supporting the troops, it's supporting Harper and it stinks.
Let's hopesome Cons will want to see the (their) soldiers honoured and will pressure Harper to re-adopt the flag-lowering traditon.

At 12:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know if being ex-military adds any weight to my opinion on this but I don't have a great deal of problem with this. It's appreciated if all flags get lowered but we do a good job of honouring our own. Having the post office in havelock NB lower it's flag because a private from CFB Wainright (or Gagetown for that matter) was killed on deployment doesn't really have any meaning for anyone there. In fact, possible protocall issues aside, I'm not sure if it's really that appropriate.

At 1:08 PM, Blogger Mike said...


I guess for me its more that the flags on Parliament Hill and the other fed buildings around Ottawa are not being lowered.

At least do that.

At 1:34 PM, Blogger Dan said...

Why bother? As a serving member, I'm used to the idea that Ottawa exists solely to screw me around - and whether or not they lower their flags in a useless gesture of public breast-beating isn't going to convince me otherwise. Personally, I'm with Doug, home base, and home town, and maybe NDHQ, anything above that is pure pageantry

At 8:19 PM, Blogger Anishkegak said...

May I offer my view on this matter........... I feel that this is a subject when politics should not be used to show up other parties just because their idea was not your idea.

As a son of a veteran and ex cadet and a possible parent of a future airman in the Canadian Forces, I feel that the lowering of a flag half mast is the ultimate show of respect and humility we could show our men and women that serve our country all over the world for their ultimate sacrifice.

I understand we show our respects to all veterans during Remembrance Day, but no matter if our flags sit at half mast one extra day a year or 364 extra days a year, I feel it is the least we could do for those we ask to do what we don't do ourselves.

Upon hearing of Mr. Harper's decision not to lower the national flag at all government buildings I was outraged and ashamed. I felt how could the families of the four courageous man that have fallen, feel that there sons would not be respected in a manner that has been done for past soldiers and I hope for soldiers to come.

As I read the Department of Canadian Heritage ( site regarding flag etiquette, I see Mr. Harper will receive the same honour that he has denied the very men and women he has ordered to serve their country. I also see their is no mention of respecting our fallen men and women other than Remembrance Day.

The previous government felt that it was appropriate when ever a soldier is slained on active duty they should be respected and honoured by flying the flag at government buildings at half mast. It doesn't cost anything and to me it is a small humble way to show our men and women in uniform and their loved ones that their sacrifice is not in vain and they are just not another causality number.

May I also respectfully ask other veterans and serving men and women what they feel about this matter so that we may show to our government that yes we respect our men and women in uniform and no matter what their mission is we will show them the ultimate respect for the ultimate sacrifice.

Respectfully Yours

Paul Carl
Kingston, Ontario

At 8:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a former member of the CF it pains me to see an ever decreasing level of awareness in Canadian citizens of what today's military are going through. If seeing a flag at half mast instigates the question of why it is such results and increases awareness is this not a good thing? I believe that the Conservatives should stick with the Liberals' precedence in honour of our fallen sons and daughters. After all it may be the only good thing the Liberals had done for our military during their tenure....

At 1:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let me get this straight. We had a military tradition probably dating back to midieval europe, and Chretien changes the custom for some unknown reason. And now you are criticizing the conservatives? Conservatives by nature highly value tradition. That's one of the nice things about conservatives, love them or hate them./

At 8:46 AM, Blogger Mike said...

You are entitled to your opion TC, but as you see from above, this is an issue that has present and former members of our military divided on it. I personally think its a good idea, as do the family of at least one of the men killed this weekend (he wrote a letter to Harper 15 days ago, before his son was killed, asking to reinstate it).

I am trying to imagine what the Conservative reaction would be if the Liberals tried to do this and used the same excuse. We would never hear the end of it.

At 4:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, Mr. Douglas, let's never change tradition. Slavery was arguable a tradition. Women's gender role as submissive is a tradition. Witch Hunting can be considered a tradition. Tradition changes when it was improved. I, along with the majority of Canadian think this was a good traditional change. Do not let your Conservative support blind you from a wrong political desicion.


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