Salute to a Brave and Modest Nation
by Kevin Myers (The Sunday Telegraph, London)
Until the deaths of Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan,
probably almost no one outside their home country
had been aware that Canadian troops are deployed in the region.
And, as always, Canada bill bury its dead, just as the rest of the world...as always will forget its sacrifice...just as it always forgets nearly everything Canada ever does. It seems that Canada's historic mission is to come to the selfless aid both of its friends and of complete strangers...and then, once the crisis is over...to be well and truly ignored.
Canada is the perpetual wallflower that stands on the edge of the hall...waiting for someone to come and ask her for a dance. A fire breaks out...she risks her life and limb to recue her fellow dance-goers...and suffers serious injuries. But when the hall is repaired..and the dancing resumes, there is Canada...the wallflower still...while those she once helped glamorously cavort across the floor, blithely neglecting her yet again.
That is the price Canada pays for sharing the North American continent
with the United States....and for being a selfless friend of Britain in two global conflicts.
For most of the 20th century, Canada was torn in two different directions: It seemed to be a part of the old world...yet had an address in the new one...and that divided identity ensured that it never fully got the gratitude it deserved.
Yet, its purely voluntary contribution to the cause of freedom in two world wars was perhaps the greatest of any democracy. Almost 10% of Canada'sentire population of seven million people served in the armed forces during the First World War...and nearly 60,000 died. The great Allied victories of 1918 were spearheaded by Canadian troops...perhaps the most capable soldiers in the entire British order of battle.
Canada was repaid for its enormous sacrifice by downright neglect..its unique contribution to victory being absorbed into the popular memory, as somehow or other, the work of the “British.”
The Second World War provided a 'rerun'. The Canadian navy began the war with a half-dozen vessels, and ended up policing nearly half of the Atlantic Ocean against U-boat attacks. More than 120 Canadian warships participated in the Normandy landings...during which 15,000 Canadian soldiers went ashore on D-Day alone.
Canada finished the war with the third-largest navy...and the fourth largest air force in the world. The world thanked Canada with the same sublime indifference as it had the previous time.
Canadian participation in the war was acknowledged in film...only if it was necessary to give an American actor a part in the campaign in which the United States had clearly NOT participated ~ a touching scrupulousness, which of course, Hollywood has since abandoned...as it has any notion of a separate Canadian identity.
So it is a general rule that actors and film makers arriving in Hollywood keep their nationality ~ unless that is, they are Canadian. Thus Mary Pickford, Walter Huston, Donald Sutherland, Michael J. Fox, William Shatner, Norman Jewison, DavidCronenberg, AlexTrebek, Art Linkletter, Mike Weir and Dan Aykroyd...have in popular perception, become American...and Christopher Plummer, British.
It is as if, in the very act of becoming famous, a Canadian ceases to be Canadian, unless she is Margaret Atwood who is as unshakably Canadian as a moose...or Celine Dion, for whom Canada has proved quite unable to find any takers.
Moreover, Canada is every bit as querulously alert to the achievements
of its sons and daughers as the rest of the world is completely unaware of them.
The Canadians say of themselves ~ and are unheard by anyone else ~
that 1% of the world's population has provided 10% of the world's peacekeeping forces.
Canadian forces in the past half century have been the greatest peacekepers on Earth. ~ in 39 missions on UN mandates...and 6 on non-UN mandates...6 on non-UN peacekeeping dutes...from Vietnam to East Timor, from Sinai to Bosnia.
Yet, the only foreign engagement that has entered the popular non-Canadian imagination was the sorry affair in Somalia, in which out-of-control paratrooopers murdered two Somalia infiltrators.
Their regiment was then disbanded in disgrace:
a unique Canadian act of self-abasement for which
naturally, the Canadians received no international credit.
So, who today, in the United States knows about the selfless friendship
its northern neighbour has given it in Afghanistan?
Rather like Cyrano de Bergerac, Canada repeatedly does honourable things for honourable motives, but instead of being thanked for it, it remains something of a figure of fun. It is the Canadian way...for which Canadians should be proud...yet such honour comes at a high cost. Over several years, more Canadian families knew that cost all too tragically well.
Lest We Forget:
For anyone who is proud to be Canadian,
this is a wonderful tribute for those who choose to serve their country
and the world...in their own quiet Canadian way...
Merle Baird-Kerr...written November 17, 2016