Tuesday, November 10, 2015


Toronto Old City Hall cenotaph (click to enlarge)

THIS IS THE CENOTAPH AT TORONTO'S OLD CITY HALL. I'm not sure precisely when the bookend inscriptions commemorating Canada's peacekeeping missions were added to the dates of World War One, World War Two and the Korean War, but they've been there a long time now.

I understand that we have a lot invested in the "myth of Peacekeeping." Canadians like to imagine ourselves as the nice guy, the good friend, the designated driver, the burly but amiable dude who wades in to break up the fight. Like so many national myths, it says more about how we imagine ourselves than the reality.

Never mind that those carved brackets of Peacekeeping, pleasingly symmetrical as they might be, are redundant. There's the simple fact that at least 159 Canadian soldiers have died since we first sent troops into Afghanistan. That's more than the total 122 Canadian fatalities on various UN peacekeeping missions.

Afghanistan might not be anyone's idea of an unmitigated military or political success, but not all of our peacekeeping missions have ended well.

They deserve to be remembered. Perhaps it's time to replace one of those stone slabs and get out the chisel.


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