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Here's Why Canadians Pay Little Attention to Their Military

August 31, 2018 in Blogs

By The Conversation

There's a strategic reason behind the phenomenon.

Canadians are in a sleepy state when it comes to their military according to a column earlier this summer by the CBC’s Murray Brewster, who reported on the results of a poll by the Earnscliffe Strategy Group.

The poll found that awareness of, and familiarity with, the Canadian Armed Forces was generally very low, and virtually non-existent among younger Canadians.

None of this should come as a surprise to those who study Canadian military history and civil-military relations in Canada.

About the only foreign war Canada has fought in the past 120 years that did not create significant political tensions for a Canadian government was the Korean War.

Every other conflict raised serious questions about Canadian unity, Canadians’ level of comfort with their nation at war and serious social and political issues about the way Canadian governments have run the wars they have led their country into.

The South African War of 1899-1902, also known as the Boer War, badly divided the country along linguistic lines.

Canada was not yet a constitutionally independent country. It was in the process of searching for ways to reconcile the strong imperial feelings of many Canadians who saw their identity as directly linked to the growing power of the British Empire, and those who wished to strike out on their own to find a path to equality within the empire. Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier was among those hoping for a more autonomous path, if not eventual independence.

Yet suddenly Canada was dragged into a war a half a world away and became a nation willing to shed blood to serve her imperial master.

Initial Quebec support

The First World War seemed at first to unite Canadians, especially when Laurier, now leader of the opposition, pledged to support the war against imperial Germany. Even French-Canadian nationalist leader Henri Bourassa was initially willing to endorse Canadian participation.

But in reality, this was a war that pitted committed British Canadian nationalists against Canadians who saw nothing but another imperial adventure sucking in Canadian blood and treasure. The 1917 Conscription Crisis left at …read more


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