Editorial – Remember the past, plan the future

Jeff Burgar

According to simple numbers, right now there should be about 35 men and women from the High Prairie region serving in the Canadian Armed Forces and Reserve.

Their duties would be everything from computer repair people, heavy-duty mechanics, electronics operators, to nurses and doctors, warehouse workers, managers, to what is known as the “sharp end”, the men and women who actually go into battle.

Thirty-five doesn’t sound like many. But that’s the fair share of our roughly 100,000 or so members in the Canadian Regular Forces, Reserves and Rangers.

Proportionally, if this were the United States, there would be about 100 serving members. If we were Taiwan, 1,000. South Korea 2,200. Switzerland, Russia or Portugal, about 350. Israel 1,000. Finland 2,100. Denmark 140. Or, if we topped the scales like North Korea, there would be almost 4,000 of our people, almost one in three, in active or reserve service!

On the lower side of the scale, Canada, although in the middle of the world scale, ranks barely above Uganda, Togo, South Africa, Rwanda, New Zealand, Luxembourg and Ireland. Japan is almost the same as Canada, and since the Second World War, Japan prohibits itself from having an active military.

In all honesty, should not a country as rich and as vast as Canada be doing more?

This Remembrance Day, our thoughts will turn to past veterans and fallen heroes. It is right to do so. It is also right to consider, all who served our country in years past, and who serve today, in most moments of their day, rarely considered or consider the past themselves except in tribute and honour. Today, in the moment, they work and fight to preserve our nation as it is today, and as they hope it will be in the future.

Our nation clings to a fond view of Canada being a nation of peacekeepers. Meanwhile, Maritime Search and Rescue flies museum pieces. Politicians can’t make up their minds what fighter jets to buy. New armoured vehicles are being turned out in droves, but they are mostly sold to other countries. Meanwhile, we shop the world for second-hand submarines, tanks and aircraft.

Politically, voters allow themselves to be convinced the world is mostly at peace. Or, the modern world has no place for conventional weapons. Soon, aircraft carriers will go the way of battleships. Fighter jets and bombers will give way to cruise missiles. The next battles will be fought in streets, alleys and cyberspace.

This raises so many questions. Are we seriously prepared for street fights? Never mind the streets and alleys of Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria. Exactly how prepared are we to defend the streets of Dawson Creek, Kitimat, or Iqaluit?

Ninety-nine per cent of Canada is forest, mountains, rivers, muskeg, Canadian Shield, prairies and tundra. Are we going to give all that up if somebody says, “Boo!”

Perhaps we are prepared to stop enemies sneaking through the back door of the local grocery store to hold our canned soups hostage. Yet, not so far across an ocean, a country like North Korea is on the verge of delivering nuclear weapons to our lands.

There are overwhelming problems defending a huge country like Canada. This is how it is. As we remember, we should also think, we have to do more if we are truly “standing on guard for thee.”

Share this post