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Canada's war dead

I recently wrote about the debate in Canada over the country's commitment to the conflict in Afghanistan. Here's the beginning of my column:

TORONTO — Canada does not try to hide its war dead. They’re honored in a now too familiar ritual, from the “ramp” ceremony with flag-draped coffins at Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan to a solemn procession along a stretch of road near Toronto renamed the Highway of Heroes.

Yet Canada has no collective concept of heroes outside the hockey rink. They don’t populate our history books. In war, the national image is not of the immense sacrifice of Canadian soldiers in World War II and Korea, but of blue-helmeted peacekeepers. The ritual for those Canadians who have died in Afghanistan, in other words, stirs far more grief and concern than patriotism.

Three more Canadian soldiers — victims of a roadside bomb in what had been a more peaceful part of Kandahar province — were given such honors last week. A fourth received them on March 9th. This brings the number of Canadian soldiers killed in the conflict to 112.

The ritual became all the more poignant when the wife of one of the dead mustered the strength to face reporters and urge the government to press ahead with the Afghan mission. 

To read the rest, click here.