In his speech at the Canadian War Museum to kick off Veterans week Stephen Harper engaged in historical revisionism par excellance. First he praised and quoted the only Quebecois to support the First World War. An Anglo compradore; Talbot Papineau.
" Twenty thousand soldiers fought in the neutral zone and captured the Village of Passchendaele.
The price paid was extremely high – 16,000 fallen, including the great Canadian patriot from Quebec, Talbot Papineau.
Papineau, a brilliant lawyer and orator - whom many expected to one day become prime minister - was one of Canada’s most eloquent champions of the cause.
In defence of Canada's participation in the First War, he wrote:
"It is true that Canada has not heard the roar of German guns, nor been struck by deadly zeppelins,
But every shot fired against Belgium or France was aimed at much as Canada's heart as at the bodies of our brave allies.""
Talbot Papineau's full letter to his cousin Henri Bourassa and Bourassas reply is here.
Harper was not just name dropping, or grasping at straws finding a Quebecois who supported the war. Instead the debate between Papineau and Bourassa is relevant to the current conflict in Afghanistan. It is an argument against the NDP and those who would oppose the current Conservative mission in Kandahar.
As Bourassa replied to his cousin, the concerns he raised sound very familiar.
As early as the month of March 1900, I pointed out the possibility of a conflict between Great Britain and Germany and the danger of laying down in South Africa a precedent, the fatal consequence of which would be to draw Canada into all the wars undertaken by the United Kingdom. Sir Wilfrid Laurier and the liberal leaders laughed at my apprehensions; against my warnings they quoted the childish safeguard of the "no precedent clause" inserted in the Order in Council of the 14th of October 1899. For many years after, till 1912, and 1913, they kept singing the praises of the Kaiser and extolling the peaceful virtues of Germany. They now try to regain time by denouncing vociferously the "barbarity" of the "Huns." To-day, as in 1900, in 1911, and always, I believe that all the nations of Europe are the victims of their own mistakes, of the complacent servility with which they submitted to the dominance of all Imperialists and traders in human flesh, who, in England as in Germany, in France as in Russia, have brought the peoples to slaughter in order to increase their reapings of cursed gold. German Imperialism and British Imperialism, French Militarism and Russian Tsarism, I hate with equal detestation; and I believe as firmly today as in 1899 that Canada, a nation of America, has a nobler mission to fulfil than to bind herself to the fate of the nations of Europe or to any spoliating Empire - whether it be the spoliators of Belgium, Alsace, or Poland, or those of Ireland or the Transvaal, of Greece or the Balkans.Politicians of both parties, your liberal friends as well as their conservative opponents, feign to be much scandalised at my "treasonable disloyalty." I could well afford to look upon them as a pack of knaves and hypocrites. In 1896, your liberal leaders and friends stumped the whole province of Quebec with the cry "WHY SHOULD WE FIGHT FOR ENGLAND?" From 1902 to 1911, Sir Wilfrid Laurier was acclaimed by them as the indomitable champion of Canada's autonomy against British Imperialism. His resisting attitude at the Imperial Conferences of 1902 and 1907 was praised to the skies. His famous phrase on the "vortex of European militarism", and his determination to keep Canada far from it, became the party's by-word - always in the Province of Quebec, of course.
Besides Papineau's defense of Imperialist war Harper went on to praise his old pal General Stan Waters. Waters was founding member and stalwart of the Reform Party.
One of the Canadian heroes of the Second World War was one of my early mentors in politics: the late, great General Stan Waters.
He had been a member of the legendary Devil’s Brigade – and he led the victorious Allied troops into Rome.
Later he became the top commander in the Canadian Army, a successful business and community leader and the country’s first elected senator.
General Waters was an individual with an incredible courage of conviction, boundless drive and determination and the deep sense of humour of a man who believed he had cheated death more than once.
He believed in war, in the nobility of service in war, when the cause is just, when the purpose clear, and only when there is no other way.
Our military history is filled with larger-than-life characters like Talbot Papineau and Stan Waters.
And Harper, the academic, the politician but never the veteran, believes in War. He is using this November 11 and Veterans week to justify his adventurism and opportunist warmongering in sacrificing our Canadian troops in his war in Afghanistan. Shame on him.
He has forgotten the real meaning of Lest We Forget. Authentic Canadian Veterans, like the War Amps, truly understand the horror of war which is why their slogan is Never Again It is something real veterans including those now in Kandahar understand only too well. While arm chair Generals like Harper will never know the true meaning of sacrifice.
The NEVER AGAIN! logo is the "reverse arms" illustration. It is an international symbol of the tragedy of war. It represents a soldier's rifle planted into the ground with a helmet placed on top. In wartime, this traditionally marked the temporary grave of a fallen soldier until he could be given a proper burial. This powerful image is not only used on Remembrance Day, but year-round as a reminder of the horrors of war. NEVER AGAIN!
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