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Canadian Military Journal

Warrior Nation?

Martin Shadwick
Martin Shadwick
Abstract :

“For an increasingly vocal set of commentators,” notes Jennifer Welsh in a thought-provoking analysis in the June 2012 Literary Review of Canada, “the tendency of the Harper government to elevate our experience in armed conflict and to depict the world as one marked by danger and epic struggle is part of a broader campaign to transform Canada into a ‘warrior nation’.” Orchestrated by right-wing elements within the government, the military, academia and the media, the perceived “militarization” seeks to “fundamentally shift how Canadians think about their country and its history.” Part and parcel of this campaign, as controversially portrayed by Ian McKay and Jamie Swift in Warrior Nation: Rebranding Canada in an Age of Anxiety (Between the Lines, 2012) and  Noah Richler in What We Talk About When We Talk About War (Goose Lane, 2012) are attempts to marginalize and belittle Canada’s peacekeeping role and legacy, and, as Welsh notes in her June 2012 review, “efforts to increase military spending, inculcate greater respect for soldiers and ‘martial values,’ rebrand Remembrance Day as a celebration of war and instil more muscularity into Canada’s foreign policy.”

Other perceived elements of the campaign - some explored, others not, by McKay, Swift and Richler - include the “militarization” of the Arctic (as reflected in more frequent military deployments in the north and the Harper government’s plans for a northern training centre, a naval refuelling facility, a fleet of Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPs), and other enhancements), the “militarization” of disaster relief (the substantial Canadian military response to the Haitian earthquake of 2010 was seen by some academics to have nefarious neo-colonial objectives), an increased military presence at citizenship and national sporting events, a much-enlarged military and military history component in Discover Canada (i.e., the study guide for would-be citizens of Canada), and efforts to promote the study of military and security issues at Canadian universities. Still other elements include a new generation of military recruiting ads (decried as inherently and deliberately misleading in some circles), Ottawa’s efforts to commemorate the bicentennial of the War of 1812 (“an enormous amount of money,” argued Dan Gardner of the Ottawa Citizen, for “propaganda so crude and jingoistic it would make old Victorian colonels roll their eyes”), the restoration of “Royal” to the official titles of Canada’s air force and navy, and, argues Noah Richler, the “forcefully imposed establishment sentiment” to “support our troops” in Afghanistan. Indeed, note some critics, the post-9/11 mission in Afghanistan provided Ottawa with a useful opportunity to jettison the notion that Canada’s armed forces could shovel snow in Toronto or keep the peace in Cyprus, but not engage in the heavy-lifting of real-world combat operations. Even the October 2012 rebranding of the Canadian Museum of Civilization as the Canadian Museum of History occasioned concern in some quarters. A Toronto Star editorial of 18 October 2012, for example, cautioned the Harper government to avoid turning the rebranded institution into “… a shrine devoted to glorifying the military and the monarchy.”

Keywords :
Warrior Nation?

Date Deposited : 08 Apr 2015 11:07

Last Modified : 08 Apr 2015 11:07

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Volume 13, Number 1, - 2013

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