Wednesday, April 26, 2006

DND Repudiates Tories on Flag Protocol

The Harper rationale for not flying the flag at half-staff continues to crumble. From the Montreal Gazette:

The department of Canadian Heritage, which is responsible for the protocol surrounding the half-staffing of the Canadian flag atop the Peace Tower, says it is just doing what the military wants.

"This was developed by the military and for the military," said heritage department spokesperson Len Westerberg. "It has been accepted by the past government and the present government."

The Department of National defense, however, says drafting its own internal policy for the half-staffing of the flag at military facilities and bases was never intended to prevent other parts of the government from honoring fallen soldiers by half-staffing the flag.

"My understanding is that the government always has the prerogative to lower the flags should they see fit," said Jay Paxton, public affairs officer for National defense.

The Gazette story makes a couple of further interesting points. One is that the Prime Minister always has the power to have the flag run at half-staff if circumstances are deemed "extraordinary". So for example it was lowered to commemorate the death of Canadian diplomat Glyn Berry in Afghanistan (January 15th, 2006) and in March 2005 to honor RCMP officers killed on duty in Alberta. The second point is that current protocol will see the flag flown at half-staff should scandal soaked Canadian ambassador Alfonso Gagliano kick the bucket.

The stench around this story continues to increase.


Anonymous said...

Cross-posted from SDA

"The Harper rationale for not flying the flag at half-staff continues to crumble. From the Montreal Gazette:"


I think that you are really missing the point here. The protocol for half-staffing the flag on the Peace Tower has been readily available on Cdn Heritage Ministries website for quite some time.

It has always been the case that the PM has the authority to order that particular flag lowered at his discretion.

Chretien changed the practice when the "friendly fire" incident occured. Although many say that was a result of his desire to poke the American in the eye, his motivation is not at issue. What is at issue is that the Canadian military is founded on a very proud tradition, and many of us think that it is a good idea to respect that tradition. Basically, the tradition is founded on the basis that all fallen members of the CAF should be treated equally and with common respect.

And the irony of Chretien, who demonstrated nothing but contempt for our military, posturing by lowering the PT flag would be humourous if it wasn't so sad.

The fact is, many politicians, including Moore, really don't know what the protocol and traditions are, and they can be forgiven for their lack of knowledge.

But this unseemly furor being initiated by media and politicians over the issue is a grave insult to the sacrifices made by the fallen soldiers. I cannot fathom why these people think it is OK to try to make political points using the bodies of dead soldiers as a springboard.

The PT flag is a unique symbol. It is the country's special flag. If you start mucking with tradition, where does it end?

For example, in the case of one of the solder's who died in Afganistan, the PT flag was not lowered. Why? Was his life less relevant? We'll never know.

And anyone who has ever served knows that combat operations are an extension of the nearly endless training exercises undertaken at home. If a soldier dies in a training accident at Petawawa, does the PT flag get lowered too? Clearly the base flags would be lowered. But if the PT isn't lowered, does that mean his life is less valuable? Or that the sailor who died in the submarine fire, an accident in a non-combat situation, was more important because the PT flag was lowered to mark his death?

Treating the PT flag in the traditional manner eliminates these inequities.

Posted by Bruce at April 26, 2006 04:50 PM

bigcitylib said...

If the one and only real "traditional" protocol was that the PM can order the flag lowered at his discretion, then Chretien did not "change the protocol".

As you note in your post (the incident re Moore), when it was convenient, the Tories went along with the protocol. Now that they see it as convenient to change the protocol, they are doing so.

The Canadian Legion's position on this is quite rich. Previous to 2003, they never flew the flag at half-mast even on Remebrance day. I suspect they are getting alot of nasty calls from their Members about this time, as are Tory politicians all across this great land of ours.

Don't hide behind the flag.

Anonymous said...


I'm not hiding behind the flag. I served it honourably for 30 years, have the scars to prove it, and buried way more of my friends and colleagues than I care to remember...


bigcitylib said...

Then you are misinformed as to the history of the flag. If you wish to argue that we should establish a protocol where the PT flag is only lowered once a year, fine. I don't agree, but fine. But do not tell me that this protocol is set in stone somewhere in somebody's records. The protocol that the Tories are "returning" to is a myth.

They are trying to bury the war and it blew up in their face. Admit and deal. They whomped up this protocol as a jsutification, but didn;t count on the LibLeft blogosphere sussing them out.

The Canadian Legion supports the Tory protocol, and that's fine too. But they themselves adopted that protocol only in 2003. Check out La Revue Gauche for links to the relevant documents. I would link to him but his site keeps crashing my browser.

Furthermore, your Mr. Moore was not alone in his ignorance, if ignorance it was. His motion was adopted unanimously, including by every Tory.

Anonymous said...


If you look on SDA, I have addressed all of your assertions with respect to Moore, parliamentarians, etc concerning their lack of knowledge about the "flag protocol".

Check out the Senate Hansard and you will find details about how uninformed they are about the matter.

I came here with no malice, assuming you were an intelligent and reasonable person, willing to appreciate facts.

Apparently I was wrong...I won't be back.

Anonymous said...

BCL, thanks for being a passionate advocate pointing out points of view I don't agree with.

I think it's unfortunate Kate banned you from Small Dead Animals.

I wouldn't have if I was her, but I'm not her.

I agree with the first "anon" in your comments here... and I respect you as a sincere advocate of your views, even if I criticize you.

P.S. Trying to figure this out... are you a guy or a girl?

bigcitylib said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
bigcitylib said...


I cannot reveal my age or sex do to obvious security concerns.

You might be right about Kate. I get a "don't have permission to access..." message when I go there. Hmmm. We'll see how easy that problem is to beat.

Anonymous said...

Why the flag stays high

Christopher McCreery
National Post

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The question of whether or not the flag flown from the Peace Tower should be lowered in honour of the sacrifice made by Canadian Forces personnel serving overseas has been clouded by grief and, to some degree, uninformed hysteria.

The grief is excusable and reveals the importance and esteem with which many Canadians hold our Armed Forces; the hysteria is inexcusable and requires clarification.

Historically, the flag on the Peace Tower -- often referred to as "the National Flag" -- is only lowered to half-mast upon the death of the Sovereign, a current or former governor-general, a current or former prime minister, a current or former senator, members of the Privy Council, the chief justice, lieutenant governors, serving MPs and on specific days such as Remembrance Day and Vimy Ridge Day. It is also lowered on national days of mourning, such as that held after the Sept. 11 attacks. (No doubt, some will balk at the half-masting for senators and MPs and not Canadian Forces members, but that is a side issue.)

This general policy is the norm in other countries, including Britain, France, the United States, Germany and South Africa, and was in place in Canada from Confederation until 2002, when four Canadians were killed in the now infamous friendly-fire incident at Tarnak Farm, near Kandahar, Afghanistan. At that time, the government decided to break with tradition and ordered the Peace Tower flag to be flown at half-mast.

This policy remained in place until November, 2005, when the Liberal government decided to revert to the traditional practice of not lowering the Peace Tower flag every time a Canadian is killed overseas. Thus, when Private B.S. Woodfield was returned to Canada in late November 2005, the Peace Tower flag was not lowered to half-mast -- yet there was no great outcry on the part of Canadians.

It is important to remember that even if the Peace Tower flag is not being flown at half-mast, flags at the Department of National Defence Headquarters, the Canadian base in Afghanistan, certain other Canadian Forces bases and, perhaps most importantly, the home base of the deceased, are. Thus, their sacrifice is not going unrecognized and is not dishonoured by the failure to lower the flag on the Peace Tower.

Veterans of the Second World War and Korea War are right to argue that if a policy of lowering the flag to half mast on the Peace Tower was in place during the conflicts that they so valiantly served in, the flag would have been permanently at half-mast those years. We must also not forget the more than 130 Canadian peacekeepers who have given their lives since 1948 -- the flag was not half-masted for them, either. The Royal Canadian Legion and other veterans' groups, with more than 250,000 veterans of the Second World War supporting them, believe that the traditional policy of not lowering the Peace Tower flag to half-mast is the correct one.

We have a national day of recognition for the service rendered by those who have served and died in the defence of our country -- Nov. 11, Remembrance Day. This is the day when all Canadians stop and reflect upon the sacrifices made not only by those who have recently lost their lives in Afghanistan, but in all of the conflicts that Canada has fought in. Would but all those people who are now engaged in hand-wringing over the decision to respect Canada's traditions and not lower the National Flag attend Remembrance Day services, the numbers would surely swell.

The point is this: When you see a flag at half-mast, you need to pause and reflect on the service given by the person who has died. But if it is routinely lowered to half-mast this effect is lost, and we become blind to the symbolism intended.

Perhaps the furor over the half-masting of the flag is a more general reaction to Canadian's shame and disgust over the systemic underfunding that the Canadian Forces has been subjected to over the past 15 years. Canada's military needs our support and better funding. If we seek to honour the brave service of our troops, we should take forward an appreciation of their sacrifice every day, and not reduce their service to an ignominious political debate about "flag up or flag down."

Dr. Christopher McCreery is the author of The Canadian Honours System, published by Dundurn Press, The Order of Canada: Its Origins, History and Development, published by University of Toronto Press, and a number of articles on flags and protocol.

© National Post 2006

Anonymous said...

BCL - I would suggest you read today's NP - letters to the editor - from one Ian Parker regarding the bru-ha-ha over the media restrictions (the flag debate is tied up in this as well)

nuff said.

bigcitylib said...

Alberta Girl, Ian Parker's letter concludes as follows:

"The Canadian media -- and Canadians -- have not earned the right to share our grief. Shame on the Canadian media, and shame on Canadians."

It seems to me that he supports the Harper media ban because he sees it as a fitting revenge upon the Canadian people for not treating the armed forces properly.

That sounds a bit unhinged to me.

Holy shit, 11 comments, and most of them not by me! This is a record for the site. I'm hitting the blog bigtime now! How do I monetize this?

Anonymous said...

'Canadians have not earned the right to share our grief'

Ian Parker
National Post

Thursday, April 27, 2006

As a retired member of the Canadian Armed Forces, I'm disturbed by the media frenzy and the artificial public outcry over the government's decision to restrict the media from CFB Trenton for the arrival of Canadian war dead. I fully support this decision, and I am ashamed of my fellow Canadians. For the past dozen years, when the Liberals were decimating the Canadian military, there was no public outcry. There was no media frenzy. You did not care. Canadians have -- due to their self-centred, insatiable demand for social programs -- wilfully neglected the men and the women of the Canadian Forces and allowed the federal government, under the Liberals, to gut the Canadian military. And now the media and other pundits wish to share in the grief of the military families for their fallen ones?

Where were the public outcry and the media frenzy over the government's obvious agenda to emasculate the Canadian Forces? There was no outcry when the air force was arbitrarily cut due to lack of resources; no outcry that the army, cut to the bone, is now unable to survive on a modern high-tech battlefield; and there has been not been a word over the decimation of the once-proud Canadian navy. In short, there has been no outcry that the Canadian Forces cannot fulfill its mission to defend Canada.

The Canadian media -- and Canadians -- have not earned the right to share our grief. Shame on the Canadian media, and shame on Canadians.

Ian Parker, Carleton Place, Ont.

© National Post 2006

Anonymous said...

i read that you've been banned from small dead animals. what's that all about? i'll miss your input.

bigcitylib said...

It looks like I've been banned, but since I can't even reach the site, I have no idea as to quite why. I will be posting on the topic later on.

Anonymous said...

Okay, thanks for replying, BCL, now here's whre I gotta move back to criticizing you. In response to being banned by Kate at, you said:

I get a "don't have permission to access..." message when I go there. Hmmm. We'll see how easy that problem is to beat.

The problem is this part about "beating her". Hers isn't a government-owned website: It's privately owned. You have no right to be there.

I would not have banned you if I was Kate and Kate, who I ordinarily and on balance do respect a great deal, lost a measure of my respect [she didn't do anything "wrong", it was just respect for her ability to "take a punch" and allow debate no matter how silly, and if she allows cartoons of Muslim jihadis (which I'm okay with... I see why they're offensive... I see the important points they make... and I see that no matter how stupid or offensive they may or may not be, she, as a private person, should be allowed to say express it) with her decision... but it is hers to make].

I don't think you should spend massive amounts of energy determining how to subvert her desire to ban you from the site.

If Kate had nothing but a private website of stamp collectors and she liked stamps from the 1830s, but you insisted on drawing everyone's attentions to stamps from the 1850s, then she could certainly ban you. It's her right. She pays the bills.

As it is, I think a political blog that allows comments should allow a wide variety of disagreement. But that's just my opinion. She doesn't have to agree with that.

So you're dead wrong here. It's not your property; it's hers. You gonna come to her parties or visit her house when she's forbidden you to?

Your attitude is part of that leftist conceit that you have a "right" to violate, if not outright steal, someone else's property.

Back off. You're wrong.

But then every so often, you say something like this:

"Blanks, I have also accused of being sexist. What races do you think I malign overmuch? I try to be fair, but I tend to malign whoever pisses me off at the moment. Right now its Conservatives especially, but when the Libs get in it will probably tilt back the other way a bit. These days, however, reaming out my fellow Libs is a bit like being a heckler at the special olympics.

(emphasis mine) That is priceless.

And as far as you're not being able to reveal your age or sex for obvious security reasons, well, you certainly don't have to and that's fine. Personally, though, I don't think anyone cares enough for you to have any significant online safety challenges.

Anonymous said...