part 1 I offered the suggestion that people who were busy, uncomfortable or simply found it inconvenient to attend a Remembrance Day event should do what makes them feel comfortable. Certainly no thinking veteran will find fault in any decision along that line, keeping in mind that any and all are welcome at cenotaphs across the country.
I also included a sketched CV, so I won't bore you with it again.
This year, as in all years since 1919, a particular "class" of person will most certainly attend: politicians. (Please understand that I want to spit when I say or write that word).
The Canadian political class of the 21st century attends Remembrance Day services for one reason: optics. While there may be a numbered few who actually hold attendance at such an event a matter of sincere personal feeling, the majority, a huge majority, do not. They are there to be seen amongst the crowds, near the uniforms and to gain political traction. Too often they are offered a place of prominence or worse, a speaking part.
That has veterans rankled this year like no other year in the past. I have spent the past year communicating with thousands of my fellow veterans. I can count on one hand the number of those veterans who believe the political class of this country has any interest whatsoever in the welfare of veterans. When the question of the duty of the federal government to live up to its obligations to veterans is brought up there is one resounding answer: Failure.
The Harper government, for all its bellicose "support the troops" rhetoric, has been responsible for the worst treatment of veterans in the modern era. Denial of pensions, clawbacks of benefits and the perpetuation of lawsuits to quash legitimate claims by the wounded are just a few of the abuses heaped upon veterans by Stephen Harper and his ministers. Harper has publicly smeared veterans who attempted to voice their complaints, all the while making sure he gets a photo op amongst "the troops". And, if all that didn't make veterans mightily angry, Julian Fantino, the newly-minted minister of veteran's affairs, sealed the deal and generated pure rage when he tried to redefine a veteran to include himself.
Julian Fantino is not a veteran. Stephen Harper, who took it upon himself to lecture reporters on the conditions in the trenches at Vimy Ridge, has not one day of service. But you can make book on the fact that both of them will show up on Remembrance Day expecting a position of prominence and a speaking part.
There are approximately 900,000 living armed service and RCMP veterans in this country, a vast majority of whom find themselves enraged at the actions and words of Harper, Fantino and, to be completely frank, politicians generally. The current Veteran's Charter which is responsible for hacking disability benefits to veterans was introduced by the Liberals, supported by the NDP and implemented by the Harper Conservatives. No party is clean.
So, while I have heard a loud suggestion that politicians should stay away from Remembrance Day ceremonies and I understand the sentiment, I would disagree. No one should be refused attendance.
However, they should take great care as to how they appear. A place at the back of the crowd would be most appropriate but that's not likely. What is not appropriate though is a place in the front or on a podium. Given their abysmal treatment of veterans they would do well to keep a very low profile. If they intend to deliver a wreath they should do so in absolute silence.
And, if they think a speaking part is due them because of their high office they should be aware that a movement is in the works to have groups of angry veterans turn their backs on them.
Right now an elected school board trustee would have a tough time gaining political traction with veterans and it gets worse as one works up the political back-stabbing pole. Given the recent behaviour of prominent politicians most veterans have one wish for the Canadian political class: A plague on all your houses; you have broken faith with us.
The print version is here.
Thanks to Alison for the video link.