Remembering Canada’s Role in the Vietnam War, I published the following essay at “Blatherings” on 10 February 2005. It is republished here due to revival of interest in the subject. (Video of Ann Coulter and Bob McKeown on CBC)
Has Canada shifted so far left that she is now a “denier” nation?
“Canada didn’t send troops to Vietnam, took a pass on Vietnam“. Bob McKeown, spokesman of Canada‘s government-owned television network, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, spoke those words on a program designed to showcase the professionalism and journalistic integrity of Canada’s state sponsored news media, as opposed to the “supposed” lack thereof and conservative slant in the privately controlled American news media, January 26, 2005. To date, no one from the CBC, nor from the Canadian government has come forth to correct that grievous and disgraceful statement.
What exactly was Canada’s role in providing troops during the Vietnam War? Although in reality Canada was supportive of the U.S. goals in Southeast Asia, the Canadian government believed that because of its membership in the International Commission of Control and Supervision (ICCS), that it needed to be impartial during the Vietnam Conflict. At the same time that the U.S. was becoming involved in Southeast Asia, Canadian military forces were being permanently down sized. As it was no longer offering military training to its young citizens, which had been a long-standing Canadian tradition, Canada did nothing to hinder the tens of thousands of its citizens crossing the U.S.-Canadian border to sign up for the war. It would be fair to say that they crossed over with the blessing of Canada. Many young Canadian men living in the U.S. allowed themselves to be drafted. Tens of thousands of other Canadian youths crossed the border to sign on with the United States Armed Forces. They wanted to obtain some of the military skills that were not available in their own country, such as aircraft piloting and mechanics. Some joined for the noble cause of fighting the growing scourge of communism, while others were seeking adventure or signing on for personal reasons.
As a direct result of Canadian official and unofficial policies, these citizens of Canada formed the largest foreign fighting contingent in the U.S. military during the Vietnam era. The exact numbers are unknown. Most estimates range between 30,000 and 40,000 uniformed Canadians in service, and 12,000 Canadians in the war zone.
When the Canadian Vietnam veterans returned to their homeland, they were even less welcome than here in the United States. American veterans had access to veterans groups and government resources, whereas in Canada the Vietnam veterans were ignored and shunned. They returned to a Canada whose government policies had changed radically. Although they had fought a noble war for a noble cause, their countrymen did not accept them as noble veterans. The official Canadian view was that “Vietnam was not Canada’s war. Ottawa didn’t send troops – but sent a lot of other things, like medical clinics, doctors and nurses.” As a result, they kept so quiet about their service, that forty years years later, new generations are easily spoonfed the government propaganda line that “Canada didn’t send troops to Vietnam, took a pass on Vietnam“, as was emphatically declared by a spokesman on Canada’s government sponsored television, January 27th of this year.
Peter C. Lemon, born in Toronto, Canada, was a recipient of the Medal of Honor. He was the only Canadian citizen to win this medal while serving in the Vietnam War. At the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, there are 104 names engraved of those Canadians lost in battle or captured or missing in action. While refusing to acknowledge Canadian soldiers in American uniforms, Canada issued a Service Vietnam Medal to the 352 Canadian Forces participating in Vietnam with the ICCS’s Operation Gallant, January 1973.
Did “peace-loving, humanitarian” Canada send anything other than troops to Vietnam? Ever hear of Agent Orange?