Author Topic: Canadian Forces cancel Afghan mission tribute (Col Stogran)  (Read 1502 times)

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Canadian Forces cancel Afghan mission tribute (Col Stogran)
« on: March 31, 2012, 10:39:51 PM »
Canadian Forces cancel Afghan mission tribute

By DAVID PUGLIESE, The Ottawa Citizen June 25, 2011 12:07 AM

Retired colonel Pat Stogran, who led Canadian troops in the early days of the Afghan war, says a ceremony to honour Canada's war dead in Afghanistan should still be held and he charges that the government and Defence Department are letting politics get in the way of honouring the dead.
Photograph by: Wayne Cuddington, The Ottawa Citizen

A plan for a Parliament Hill tribute to honour the country’s Afghan war veterans and the memory of those killed in action in that conflict has been scrapped, with the Canadian Forces now taking a more subdued approach to commemorating the end of the Kandahar mission.

The Parliament Hill ceremony, planned for September, would have included large numbers of troops as well as a performance by the military’s Snowbirds aerobatic flying team, sources told the Citizen.

But retired colonel Pat Stogran, who led Canadian troops in the early days of the Afghan war, says such a ceremony should still be held and he charges that the government and Defence Department are letting politics get in the way of honouring the dead.

Canadian Forces spokesman Brig.-Gen. Richard Blanchette confirmed there had been plans for such a ceremony, but said they did not get to the point where Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Walter Natynczyk approved them.

“When it was brought up to the CDS’s attention, he said, ‘No, we’re not going that route’,” Blanchette explained. “It would be very awkward, not only for Canadians, but also for our allies. What would we be commemorating when you have some of our allies (still) being killed in Afghanistan?”

Blanchette said the decision to not proceed with the Parliament Hill event had “nothing to do with an idea that we should not be recognizing the sacrifice of our soldiers who fell.”

He noted the Canadian mission has changed, moving from combat in Kandahar to training Afghan security forces, largely in the Kabul area.

American soldiers are taking over from Canadian troops in Kandahar province, where many of the 156 Canadian soldiers who died during the war were killed. More than 600 Canadians have been wounded in action.

Blanchette said Canada’s commitment to Afghanistan will be honoured in a more “subdued campaign” that will include a display to be featured at public events such as festivals. The display would also honour the fallen. It will send a message the Afghan mission is not over, he added.

In addition, a message was recently sent on behalf of Josée Touchette, the Defence Department’s assistant deputy minister for public affairs (ADM PA), noting that approval must be obtained for any event commemorating the Afghan mission.

“All proposed events or activities will be flagged to ADM PA sufficiently in advance to ensure appropriate level of departmental and whole of government awareness to inform assessment and approval as well as to ensure appropriate support,” the message read.

Some officers saw the message as an attempt by the government to control publicity surrounding the war.

Stogran, who retired as veterans ombudsman, said units shouldn’t need approval from a public servant to honour the fallen. “It pisses me off,” he said. “They’re talking about this as public affairs. The chain of command should look at this as part of the healing process.

“There’s a reason why militaries have historically done (ceremonies), because it is a way to try to heal some of the wounds,” he added.

Stogran said ceremonies and parades honouring the sacrifice of those who died in Afghanistan, as well the efforts of the troops, should be done on a regular basis. As well, the public and media should be invited to all such activities.

But Blanchette said the message that was sent out is directed “more at events that might attract national-level attention, which would need approval at the political level.”

Asked why the military would need approval from politicians or from Touchette to hold ceremonies commemorating the end of the Kandahar mission, Blanchette responded that, “It’s because of the effect it could have.”

A larger event could attract national or international media, he noted.

“This would have national coverage or international coverage,” Blanchette explained. “We could be sending the wrong message out.”

Approval is not needed if the event is a local one, Blanchette explained.

He also noted, for instance, that if the head of the army, Lt.-Gen. Peter Devlin, wanted to hold an event commemorating the end of the Kandahar mission, he wouldn’t need Touchette’s approval. “You could have the army commander organize something (and) he would just inform her,” Blanchette said.

But larger events that might touch on other government departments involved in the Afghan mission would need to be approved. Blanchette suggested the message might be misunderstood by some in uniform because of how it was written.

Other officers, however, said the message was clearly written and the intent was that all events commemorating the Afghan mission needed approval.

Blanchette said the Canadian Forces is proud of its efforts in Afghanistan and those who died will be honoured during Remembrance Day and Veterans Week.
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