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The Inevitable Debate on Half Masting

AmmoTech90

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In light of the fact that the media and members of this forum have already picked up on the fact that the flags on Parliament Hill will not be at half mast for the soldiers killed today (see http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Canada/2006/04/22/1546072-cp.html for the media), I would like to draw attention to CANFORGEN 069/06, promulgated on 11 Apr of this year.
Flags will still be half masted at the TF, the members home base, all establishments of the environment (Army/AF/Navy) that the member was a part of, and at NDHQ.

This, according to the CANFORGEN, is joint decision between DND and Heritage Canada.  Whether or not it was influenced by a politician or if a functionary realized that the nationwide half masting of flags for a soldiers death was a break with past tradition and brought it up to his bosses is irrelevant in my opinion.

A decision has been made, if someone (you) doesn't like it, do something constructive about it.  Send a letter to your MP, ask for the reasoning from Heritage Canada/DHH.  Give your arguments on why it is a bad idea.

Personally I can see both sides.
-Not lowering because it isn't tradition.  But that is the old, "we've always done it that way, it must be right".  About the only time I agree with this argument is with regards to ceremony...so I can understand it.  Were the flags at half mast during any of our previous wars?  I don't know but I'm sure some one here does.
-Lowering the flags so that it helps drive home the impact of what Canada as a whole is involved in to the general public.  Sad but true, seeing or hearing a report of a flag at half mast does drive home that Canadians are dying.

The fact that flags are not being lowered nationwide has opened up a can of worms that was made when the decision was taken to half mast Parliament Hill when a soldier was killed.  I don't know when or where this was done, but the fact that someone started doing it created the potential for this debate.  If the DHH/Heritage Canada decision had not been take then someone would have had to ask what I think is a very indelicate question:
At what rate of casualties do we stop half masting the flag on Parliament Hill?  The fact that a decision was made prevents anyone having to ask this question.  That is a good thing.  The member's unit, home station, and the national HQ all recognize their sacrifice.  They are remembered with all our other war dead on Remembrance Day.

D
 

greenhorn

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I just wanted to say that I agree with you and both sides are valid and it is nice when someone makes a final decision.  I feel that it would be taxing on the emotions of the general Canadian Populus to see the flag at half mast a lot and therefore support for the mission would go down, even worse, and then the insurgents would see the weakened minds/hearts of the Canadians and hit us more and more thinking we will break and leave...nasty circle...true?
 

IN HOC SIGNO

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greenhorn said:
I just wanted to say that I agree with you and both sides are valid and it is nice when someone makes a final decision.  I feel that it would be taxing on the emotions of the general Canadian Populus to see the flag at half mast a lot and therefore support for the mission would go down, even worse, and then the insurgents would see the weakened minds/hearts of the Canadians and hit us more and more thinking we will break and leave...nasty circle...true?

It is a tough one for sure. We all respect our fallen comrades but the fact is that we are at war. When at war the expectations of casualties can be that we will lose guys daily and then the flags would be at half mast all the time.
It's kind of like when they had that hugh ceremony in Edmonton for the four guys killed in friendly fire. A lot of us saw this as a dangerous precedent. It was a great way to honour soldiers but could we expect to keep that standard up in light of the amount of casualities that we can expect to take in this campaign.

I think we all know that the real remembering is done by the Regiments and the comrades at arms. They will never be forgotten by those folks and that's what really counts. The spotlight of the media and national politicians (and flags) is a flash in the pan....our Regimental families are the ones who will hold the torchs high.
 

Amsdell

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In my heart I feel that lowering the flags to half-mast is the right thing to do.  Rationally thinking, if the Parliament Hill flags are lowered for our troops then they should be lowered for our cops and firefighters who fall in the line of duty as well.  I think flag-lowering should be left to the individual cities (city halls, schools, etc) where the soldiers were from.  This would demonstrate the true support, the support of the people, for the fallen soldiers, and it would mean a whole lot more than a government PR gesture.
 

Haggis

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We should stay the course with tradition for more than one reason.

Remembering the fallen has always happened nationally on Nov 11.  At that time, Canada stops to mourn.  Certainly their families, comrades and friends will remember them each year but, five years from today, 22 April, will Canada still stop to mourn this loss?  Does Canada stop to mourn on 17 April for four brave Patricias lost on Op APOLLO??  What of those lost in the Balkans, Cyprus and other missions?  Does Canada mourn thier day of passing? 

With each loss we add a date.  Where does it end or do we become a country perpetually mourning it's war dead? By extension, if our losses contunue to mount in this, or another, campaign, we could find ourselves with the flags perpetually at half mast. 

Lastly, I feel that the current policy, articulated in the CANFORGEN is the right way to go in the eyes of our citizens and, more importantly, the eyes of our enemies.  There is nothing the Taliban would like to see more than a crack in our resolve.  The fact the the Maple Leaf flies high and proud over our Peace Tower at this terrible time is a symbol that we are resolved, as a nation, to stay the course and take the fight to the enemy.  You cannot bow us.  You will not beat us.
 

COBRA-6

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+1 Haggis, outstanding post. I hope the media doesn't try and make a political issue out of this...
 

Haggis

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Mike_R23A said:
+1 Haggis, outstanding post. I hope the media doesn't try and make a political issue out of this...

Thanks.

Unfortunately they already have.  (http://www.canada.com/globaltv/national/story.html?id=d370f3a7-1d30-416c-be41-76629218d552&k=20462)

Also, tonight's Global National on-line poll asked "Do you think the flag on Parliament Hill should fly at half mast when a Canadian soldier is killed?".  My kids asked me if we were going to half mast the flag in our yard.  I told them "no", and then explained why, which I posted here.  It was a good and timely family discussion as my son is going to the CFRC on Monday to try for Infantry.

In the same newscast Global also had an article on the Reservists serving in Afghanistan.
 

pbi

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Well posted Haggis. Despite what I think were probably the best of intentions, IMHO we were sliding down a slippery slope with constant half-masting. We have good, long standing military traditions for honouring our dead, and we should respect them.

Cheers
 

Centurian1985

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Im afraid I dont share the same opinion - I see nothing wrong with having the flags at half-mast every time that a Canadian soldier is killed.  It would be a signal that no citizen could miss, and a reminder to every politician as to what our soldiers are doing overseas on their behalf.  :salute:

 

Haggis

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That's one of the cool things about living in a free country.  We can agree to disagree.

My :cdn: stays up.
 

Gayson

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IMO, there is no need to bring the flag at half mast everytime a comrade is killed.

The real remembering occurs in the mess over a beer, or when reminiscing with buddies over old times.

Not when people drive by parliament hill and see the flag down.
 

IN HOC SIGNO

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Haggis said:
Please, no.

I agree with you too. You should see the fire storm in some of the political blogs etc though. The Liberal partisans are making this as an issue to try and embarass the government. It's a no win situation unfortunately. It irks me that our fallen comrades will be the political footballs...they and the families deserve more respect than having partisan hacks use them in this way. :cdn:
 

vonGarvin

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If there were a "member of the month" or "post of the month" award here on army.ca, I would nominate Haggis.  Well spoken, well thought out, just well, well-everything.  :D

 

Recce41

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Here one fellas, the CPC phoned (Yesterday) Saturday. The lady spoke to my wife about if she would join the CPC party and does she support the CPC. Well, my wife holds no punches. She blased the lady about the flag. And told her she would never vote for the PCs again. The lady just said who cares about the soldiers and what makes them special. My well spoken wife told her I was in the military, she was in and my daughter would be in Aug. The lady hungup. Traditions are OK, but to just to show support.
 
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