In a period of austerity, the Canadian Forces have decided to spend up to $4.5 million dollars to bring back World War II-era ranks and insignia. This crazy amount of money will be spent to buy new dress uniforms for the Canadian Forces officers from both the Army and the Navy. All that for what?! Nothing, if you ask me, except to bring Canada closer to the British Monarchy.
Johanna Quinney, the Defence Minister’s secretary, told the media that the move was designed to honour the traditions and history of the Canadian Forces: “This initiative encourages esprit de corps for our soldiers and reinforces our country’s rich military history,” Quinney said. “The return of the historical identity of the Canadian Armed Forces also strengthens the link between today’s members and the previous generations of heroes who bravely served our country.”
Esprit de corps … Seriously?! … I can’t imagine a bunch of grunts in Afghanistan fighting even harder because of some new “old” officers rank. Actually, as an ex enlisted soldiers, it doesn’t affect in no way my esprit de corps. To be completly honest, enlisted soldiers won’t give a shit about them, except bitching because they’ll have to relearn the ranks so they don’t get chewed for telling an officer a bad rank.
I don’t need to see officers wearing WWII-era insignia and ranks to respect what this great generation of men and women did.
Meanwhile, most combat units, regular or reserve, lack the funds to properly train their soldiers. In fact, most units don’t have a big enough budget to allow their troops to conduct firing ranges and necessary training in the field.
The Conservative Government announced late last year that the National Defence would see their budget cut by more than $1 billion for cost savings. While the Canada First Defense Strategy talks about readiness as one of the four pillars upon which military capabilities are built, the recent cuts deeply trouble the soldiers whose jobs are to be ready for whatever happens in the world or in Canada.
Can we call this $4.5 million spending a senseless dumb idea?
Of course we can! Since Canada has left Kandahar, the troops have been receiving less training and have been stagnating in their units due to lack of funds.
The Ministry of Defence might pretend this is false, due to the big increase in foreign training, but the boys and girls in the frontline units can confess that they have nothing to do.
Mental Heath Services
Another subject that greatly affects me, since I am diagnosed with PTSD, is the availability of Mental Health Services to serving soldiers. While officers will have new tunics to go to their “highly important” mess dinners, the National Defence is still trailing in recruiting more Mental Health Services professionals. Mental health services have been a priority for the department, but the government is also “reviewing whether further enhancements are needed,” said Defence Minister Rob Nicholson.
The National Defence’s goal was to provide more than 447 mental health workers for the suffering soldiers and their families. However, as January 2014, DND had just 388 mental health workers in employ, only nine more than in September 2012.
Can we all agree that this $4.5 million would’ve been way more beneficial for the support and services the National Defence has to offer to their service members?
NPD Defence critics Jack Harris reacted to the announcement, calling it a waste of money: “Meanwhile, the needs of our veterans and military personnel in uniform who have housing issues, medical and mental health issues and have other needs that they are crying out for help for, are being treated with — well, I wouldn’t call it indifference, but not the priority they deserve.”
In a post-war period where Canada wasn’t prepared at all to face such an amazing numbers of both physically and psychologically wounded soldiers, the Conservative Government seems to prefer “honoring” our traditions, rather than making sure our troops have enough money to properly train and providing enough medical care to the soldiers who really need it.
While Canada has always been an “officer’s” military, it makes me go nuts when I see millions of dollars spent for parade tunics, and not on ammunition and medical services.
Support our troops, they said… Maybe it’s time for them to reconsider just how to support the troops.
(Featured image courtesy of the Governor General of Canada’s webpage)