by Bernd Horn
Writing about Canada’s military history and its “way of war” calls to mind the observation that Canadians perceive themselves to be a peaceful people. Moreover, they take great pride in their reputation as “peacekeepers.” In fact, a mythology has evolved of Canadians as reluctant warriors — destined to fulfill a role to bring peace to others in a hostile and unstable world. This popular image is not entirely new. “We are first of all a peace-loving people,” espoused T.S. Sproule, the Member of Parliament for East Grey, in the House of Commons in May 1899.1 Several months later, the prime minister, Sir Wilfrid Laurier himself, exclaimed, “The cause for which you men of Canada are going to fight [in South Africa] is the cause of justice, the cause of humanity, of civil rights and religious liberty.” He added, “This is not a war of conquest.”2 Five decades later, renowned Canadian historian C.P. Stacey echoed those exact same sentiments. Canada “struck good blows for the good cause,” proclaimed Stacey.3 He observed that “Canada is an unmilitary community.” And went on to explain, “Warlike her people have often been forced to be, military they have never been.”4
This theme was repeated half a century later in 2001 by Adrienne Clarkson, the governor general of Canada and commander-in-chief of the Canadian Armed Forces.5 She described Canada as “a peaceable kingdom” and asserted that Canadians “are basically a forgiving and compassionate people.”6 In the wake of the tragic terrorist attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001, she commented on “our ability to maintain justice and do what is right, to bring peace to those far and near.” She went on to say that this “is difficult. It is trying. This is a role which history has allotted us.”7
More recently, Major-General Andrew Leslie, the deputy commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan and the top Canadian serving in that theatre at the time, posed the rhetorical
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Publication information: Book title: The Canadian Way of War: Serving the National Interest. Contributors: Colonel Bernd Horn - Editor. Publisher: Dundurn. Place of publication: Toronto. Publication year: 2006. Page number: 11.
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