State funerals to promote the military

Oppose all-sided militarization of life and war preparations

Homemade signs of solidarity and affection are taped to a metal fence across from the Northwood Manor on Gottingen Street in Halifax’s North End | Ron Short, CBC

By Tony Seed

On May 24, 2020, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) held a high-profile public funeral in Halifax for its public relations officer, Capt. Jennifer Casey, a member of the RCAF’s Snowbirds aerobatic team. She was killed on May 17 when her plane crashed in a residential neighbourhood in Kamloops, BC, during it’s cross-Canada military public relations and recruitment tour codenamed Operation Inspiration. Fortunately, there was no additional loss of life. Casey was a former radio journalist and previously with NORAD.[1

The funeral featured a highly-publicized public memorial procession – attended by Julie Payette, then Governor-General of Canada, and Harjit Sajjan, Minister of Defence – through the streets of Halifax, Nova Scotia, her home province. Payette said she is familiar with the risks inherent to working in the Air Force, and declared “accidents happen. No matter how we train, we know that there are risky parts within this job. And that’s why I’m so proud of them.” That evening CBC-TV featured four different reports on the procession, asserting that “Nova Scotians and the military community joined together in solidarity and sympathy as they salute Captain Jenn Casey.” [2] In 2021, the RCAF has continued to memorialize Cpt. Casey as part of the government’s resumption of Operation Inspiration.[3]

While the loss of all life is regrettable, no such public tributes, photo montages, biographies nor hymns were organized or published to commemorate the 53 seniors who had died as of that date from COVID-19 at Northwood Manor, the private, for-profit long-term care residence located in the same city. The pain is very great for many of us: Doug Rosborough, a renowned wooden boat builder who died, and several other residents who survived are long time friends. In April 2020 the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU) reported that its members who went to Northwood said that the situation there was like a war zone. It was marked, among other things, by a lack of infection control measures to protect vulnerable seniors and frontline workers, and a lack of appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Their just demand for a public enquiry was rejected out of hand.

Homemade signs of support and affection are taped to a metal fence across from the Northwood Manor on Gottingen Street in north-end Halifax.
Ryan Taplin, Saltwire

At the time, an estimated 9,585 people in Canada (with 149,420 recoveries) and 1,072,852 people throughout the world had died at that time as a result of the global pandemic and millions have died as a result of genocide, wars and crimes against humanity. Such ceremonies suggest that some human beings are more important and precious than others and a selective hierarchy of victims is being created. This double standard is unconscionable and unacceptable. What is important is that we remember all such victims and all such crimes and understand their causes.

The loss of the life of this young woman was not so much an “accident” as needless and irresponsible – the result of a major public relations exercise organized by the military despite broad concerns about safety of the crew flying aged jet fighters and the skills of the pilots themselves. The Snowbird tour codenamed Operation Inspiration was an adjunct of Operation Strong America, a cross-country military flyover organized by NORAD/U.S. Northern Command and launched by Trump on April 22, 2020 to present the military as “heroes on a par with health care workers.”

Further, the Canadian media still fails to report that on May 17, 2020 – the very same day as the fatal crash of the Snowbird yet in Kamloops – the USAF Thunderbirds abruptly cancelled the rest of Operation Strong America after a near collision over Los Angeles County, California.[3] What is important is that this was a result of the integration of the Canadian Armed Forces into U.S. Homeland Security under NORAD.

Earlier, the Canadian Armed Forces on May 6, 2020 staged a repatriation ceremony to honour the six Armed Forces members who died in the crash of the Sikorsky Cyclone helicopter of the HMCS Fredericton on April 28 in the Ionian Sea in the Mediterranean during a NATO exercise. It was attended by Gov.-Gen. Payette and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the first Canadian prime minister to attend such a ceremony since Paul Martin in January 2004. A highly-publicized motorcade to Toronto along the so-called “Highway of Heroes,” nicknamed during the war in Afghanistan. Another ceremony of the ship’s company had already been held on May 4 at the major NATO naval base in Taranto, southeastern Italy, attended by Sajjan and Deputy Minister Jody Thomas.

On June 25, 2020 a motorcade procession for four of the deceased was held in Halifax and on June 30 another was held in Victoria, BC.

On July 22 HMCS Fredericton returned to its home port of Halifax. Canadian Press reported

“After a six-month deployment, the Royal Canadian Navy frigate sailed into port accompanied by Nova Scotia’s fabled schooner Bluenose II and the navy’s training sailing vessel HMCS Oriole.

“A navy band played military music and a line of Air Force personnel stood dockside holding cardboard letters spelling out: ‘Welcome Home!’

“Earlier, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Gen. Jonathan Vance, chief of the defence staff, had boarded the frigate before it reached land and sailed into port with the crew. The ship was officially welcomed by Nova Scotia Lt.-Gov. Arthur LeBlanc.”

“Defence officials have said the helicopter was returning to HMCS Fredericton at the end of a NATO training exercise, part of Operation Reassurance.”

However, nobody in Canada talks about what precisely the Fredericton was doing during NATO Op Reassurance in the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, the Baltic Sea nor the North Atlantic during its 6-month voyage nor what it was “training” for – neither the media (including social media) nor the political world, where an absolute multi-party silence reigns over all this. Yet these deployments, basically dictated by Washington and signed by Trudeau for Canada, not only trace the guidelines of our military policy, but also our foreign policy. Nor does the media any longer mention that the casualties were the largest since Canada’s participation in the US-NATO war of occupation of Afghanistan.

Noteworthy is the fact that these demonstrative ceremonies akin to state funerals are not a military tradition. An analysis of their origin and the reasons given for them is in order. They were started in their modern form during the decade-long Canadian military intervention in the U.S.-led NATO occupation of Afghanistan. Before then, the military returned the bodies of deceased personnel privately, at night.

The aim of successive Liberal and Conservative governments was to use the funerals of Canadian soldiers for political reasons: to convince Canadians to give up their unequivocal opposition to a war of aggression in South Asia by presenting it as being fought in the name of “Canadian values” such as the liberation of women or what was then called the promotion of “defence, diplomacy and development” (the 3D program) and human rights.

Without even the fig leaf of a resolution from the UN Security Council and in defiance of the principles of the UN Charter, the Anglo-American occupation of Afghanistan from 2001 to date set a new low in all the norms of human conduct that now pervades international relations. The war of revenge and global hegemony signalled one of the clearest markers of the terrible danger that confronts humanity.

The war in Afghanistan was officially launched to avenge the attacks in the United States of September 11, 2001, in which many Canadians died. However, it had been prepared beforehand. Canada like other NATO members was dragged into the U.S. “war on terror” in Afghanistan based on the lie that the U.S. was acting in self-defence. The war, which was supposed to last two weeks, went on for 20 years. It was planned to last as long as possible.

2001 banner based on the poignant painting by Pablo Picasso, “Guernica”, created by Nova Scotia Teacher’s Union

Canadians did not buy it. Public opinion polls admitted at the time that more than half of all Canadians opposed the participation of the Canada in the occupation of Afghanistan.[4] A survey by Ipsos Reid of France, a corporate affiliate of NATO, commissioned by the Department of National Defence lamented that there was little support or understanding among Canadians for the war or what the military was doing. It suggested that support for the occupation allegedly rose to about 81 per cent when the government’s “explanation” for the Canadian presence in Afghanistan is included as part of the poll.[5] At that time as today, the Canadian Forces had a recruitment problem amongst the youth.

The consequences of the military savagery of this illegal war were disastrous. In a poignant commentary, Margaret Villamizar writes that “Brown University’s Cost of War project estimates that up to April 2021 over 71,000 Afghan and Pakistani civilians had died as a direct result of the war. This is in addition to the official count which includes 125,000 combatants on all sides, aid workers and journalists. It does not include all those wounded and left with permanent injuries, the millions displaced from their homes and turned into refugees, those tortured and detained for years without trial in hell-holes like the U.S. prison in Guantánamo, and others condemned to civil death using draconian ‘anti-terrorism’ laws and, in Canada, security certificates. There were 165 Canadians, including seven civilians, who died in the war. Many more of the 40,000 Canadian troops who were deployed to Afghanistan were wounded, both physically and psychologically, leading to many veterans taking their own lives.”

Now, on the eve of the 20th anniversary of 9/11 we mourn the loss of all life linked to both occasions, and related events and other such wars aimed at regime change in third countries spuriously claimed to be harbouring terrorists. The Government of Canada and others who spout nonsense about high ideals or stage selective high profile funerals do not mourn or even recognize these losses. None of the losses following 9/11 solicits a single word of regret on the part of the Government of Canada or the cartel parties of the rich seeking to form the next government in the 44th General Election.

What is not understood or appreciated by these warmongers then or today is that Canadians in the main have taken up social responsibility for the social and natural environment, and oppose imperialist war and aggression.

This is a time to draw warranted conclusions about the nature of Canada’s integration into the U.S. war preparations under NORAD and NATO, the taboo around even discussing our country’s membership, and the orchestrated methods being used to promote it in the name of “solidarity” and high ideals. This must raise the question of how the rights and the human-centred security of all can be defended, both within a specific society and internationally. What better time than during a federal election, and in view of the events in Afghanistan, for Canadians to discuss the need for a new direction for Canada’s foreign and military policy and for a government that renounces war and aggression as tools of its foreign policy, and how such a government can be brought into being.

With files from TML Monthly, CBC, The Drive, Canwest and The Coast

Notes

1. Media tributes, in acknowledging Capt Casey attended King’s College School of Journalism in 2008 and 2014, fail to mention that the Journalism School has been one of the university programs across Canada used by the Canadian Forces to recruit student youth. In a lucrative contract with the military, journalism students were embedded in NATO exercises in Europe. “It’s another example of a university selling its soul to the military,” wrote Bruce Wark, then on faculty, who exposed the program back in 2007. (“Militarization of Halifax: King’s military school,” The Coast, December 20, 2007 and tonyseed.wordpress.com. The sad result is now in. The recruitment of youth using various subterfuges such as “see the world,” “jobs,” “career advancement” and “Canadian values” is unconscionable, unacceptable and to be condemned.

2. Elizabeth Chiu, CBC NS reporter, Atlantic Tonight host, May 24, 2020.

The Royal Canadian Air Force announced on May 28, 2021 the resumption of Operation Inspiration:

3. Tyler Rogoway, “The Thunderbirds Had A Little Scare Over SoCal With One F-16 Executing An Emergency Breakaway,” The Drive, May 16, 2020.

The Drive reported “The flyovers were somewhat controversial from the start. The perception that the government was spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for each military flyover sortie while first responders struggled to obtain personal protection equipment, laid-off Americans flocked to food banks for sustenance, and small businesses struggled to obtain government loads was hard to overcome in some cases. Videos of harsh criticism of the flights have gone viral . . .”

The Royal Canadian Air Force announced on May 28, 2021 the resumption of Operation Inspiration:

On September 4-5, the Snowbird crews participating in the Canadian International Air Show in Toronto, sponsored by Lockheed Martin, dedicated their performance in memory of Capt Casey. The air show is a venue for weapons manufacturers to showcase their armaments in the name of “entertainment”, including Lockheed Martin to advance its bid to sell its F-35 jet to the Canadian military. They also participated in air shows in London, Ontario, Abbotsford, BC and Camrose, AB and staged fly overs of numerous cities across Canada.

4. CanWest News Service, August 24 2007.

5. National Post, August 24 2007.

This was highlighted in the 2018 report issued by the Independent Panel on Canada’s Future Role in Afghanistan, known as the Manley Report, which aimed to provide the “explanation.” To sustain this pretence, it highlighted “humanitarian” objectives – the 4D program – along with increased military and arms deployment. However, in his press conference launching his report, Manley brazenly referred to the demands of Fortress America, the union of North American monopolies to contend with Europe, conquer Asia, capture China and dominate the world:

“… we have to count. There are times when it matters. We’re not prepared to retreat under the U.S. missile shield and live in Fortress North America. We’re prepared to be out there and we’re prepared to pay the price, because that’s what you expect of a country like Canada.”

The Manley Report demanded that any Canadian government fall in step with the U.S.-led war for markets, resources and spheres of influence in Central Asia, and provide even greater human and material resources for that war.

An earlier version was reposted on Robert Devet’s excellent The Nova Scotia Advocate

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