Growing Up in Armyville

Canada's Military Families during the Afghanistan Mission
Wilfrid Laurier University Press
  • 1. Auflage
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  • erschienen am 29. Oktober 2016
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  • 215 Seiten
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978-1-77112-258-0 (ISBN)
It was 2006, and eight hundred soldiers from the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) base in pseudonymous 'Armyville,' Canada, were scheduled to deploy to Kandahar. Many students in the Armyville school district were destined to be affected by this and several subsequent deployments. These deployments, however, represented such a new and volatile situation that the school district lacked-as indeed most Canadians lacked-the understanding required for an optimum organizational response. Growing Up in Armyville provides a close-up look at the adolescents who attended Armyville High School (AHS) between 2006 and 2010. How did their mental health compare with that of their peers elsewhere in Canada? How were their lives affected by the Afghanistan mission-at home, at school, among their friends, and when their parents returned with post-traumatic stress disorder? How did the youngsters cope with the stress? What did their efforts cost them? Based on questions from the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth, administered to all youth attending AHS in 2008, and on in-depth interviews with sixty-one of the youth from CAF families, this book provides some answers. It also documents the partnership that occurred between the school district and the authors' research team. Beyond its research findings, this pioneering book considers the past, present, and potential role of schools in supporting children who have been affected by military deployments. It also assesses the broader human costs to CAF families of their enforced participation in the volatile overseas missions of the twenty-first century.

Patrizia Albanese is a professor at Ryerson University and past-president of the Canadian Sociology Association. She is co-author of Youth & Society (2011) and More Than It Seems (2010); author of Children in Canada Today (2016) and Child Poverty in Canada (2010); and co-editor of Sociology (2016). She has done research on child care in Canada and youth in CAF families.
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Real Changes for Real People: Canadian Military Involvements since the Second World War

Many yearn for a return-indeed in some cases to a virtually exclusive focus-on classical international peacekeeping. Peacekeeping is a wonderful concept. A Canadian invention and frequently necessary. But it covers only a limited portion of the security challenges we face in today's international environment. . . . United Nations-mandated peace missions increasingly rely on the robust use of force to protect civilians. . . . That's the reality of our world for the foreseeable future and if Canada wants to contribute to global security, we will have to participate in UN peace enforcement missions, not just traditional peacekeeping.

-Prime Minister Stephen Harper, speech to the Conference of Defence Associations, 2008.1

Classical or traditional peacekeeping may have been "a Canadian invention" and "a wonderful concept," but it is far from what Canada has been doing since 2001. Canadian soldiers' involvement in delivering what Harper referred to as "a robust use of force" in Afghanistan marked a sharp departure from Canada's traditional and idealized role as a middle-power peacekeeper. While changes to the Forces' role began about a decade before this, the Afghanistan mission was longer, more demanding, and more dangerous than what had come before it, resulting in a very different set of experiences for Canadian soldiers and their families.

On top of the more than 40,000 soldiers who fought in Afghanistan-the longest active military engagement in Canadian history (Government of Canada, 2014)-the over 2,000 who were injured in combat, and the 158 who lost their lives, tens of thousands more family members of soldiers and other military personnel were profoundly affected by what happened during that mission. Even without the Afghanistan mission, the military organization had comprised a "greedy institution" that required exclusive and undivided loyalty from members and their families (Coser, 1974; Segal, 1986). The heightened exposure to danger that characterized the Afghanistan mission upped the ante by making significantly more demands. Canadian soldiers and their families were expected to remain committed and consumed, amid enormous changes that were occurring in the nature and danger of the missions they participated in.

Additionally, a report of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence (Kenny et al., 2008) and a battery of Canadian journalists repeatedly drew attention to what Harper intentionally did not include in his speeches and public addresses. According to these sources, the Harper government was attempting to keep the Canadian public unaware of the heightened level of violence that surrounded Canada's involvement in Afghanistan (Akin, 2007; Bell, 2013; Brewster, 2011; Chivers, 2009; Kenny et al., 2008; Manley et al., 2008; TorStar News Service, 2010). The report of the Independent Panel on Canada's Future Role in Afghanistan (Manley et al., 2008, p. 20) blamed both the Liberal and Conservative administrations, stating: "To put things bluntly, governments from the start of Canada's Afghan involvement have failed to communicate with Canadians with balance and candour about the reasons for Canadian involvement, or about the risks, difficulties and expected results of that involvement."

Media outlets, on the other hand, named and blamed the Harper government. For example, CTV News reported that in his first Quebec appearance following the death of two Quebec-based soldiers, then Prime Minister Harper almost completely refrained from commenting on the mission (Akin, 2007). He instead thanked military members for defending our values and way of life, and refused to answer reporters' questions (Akin, 2007).

Other media outlets pointed out that the government's policy of releasing the names of injured soldiers only once a year (on December 31) obscured the intensity of fighting faced by Canadian soldiers, masked the nature of the life-altering injuries, and provided Canadians with "a mental buffer against the numbing realities of war" (TorStar, 2010, para. 4). In 2013, the National Post reported on a declassified memo that had been sent to the prime minister by the Privy Council Office during the height of the Afghanistan mission, downplaying statistics that revealed Canadian troops to be suffering significantly higher casualty rates than their allies (Bell, 2013).

More deaths, more injuries, and more invisible wounds, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, with little acknowledgement of the impact of these on soldiers and their families, made the Afghanistan mission an overwhelmingly challenging set of Canadian deployments for those who experienced them.

Canadians knew little about the Afghanistan mission as it was unfolding. They knew even less about how the mission was experienced by the members of military families. This chapter will provide an overview of the shifting nature of Canada's role as a peacekeeper, and will conclude with a discussion of the special challenges faced by the CAF during the Afghanistan mission.

A Brief History of Postwar Canadian Forces Missions

Between the end of World War II and the end of the twentieth century, Canada participated in over 34 United Nations peacekeeping and peace-observing missions (Bouldin, 2003). As a result, it came to see itself and to be seen by others as a peacekeeping nation. Indeed, Canadians constructed a series of beliefs that amounted to "a national consensus, that peacekeeping [is] a special Canadian talent" (Granatstein, 2012, p. 47). These beliefs shaped the Canadian national identity for many years.

Shortly after September 11, 2001, there were only 269 Canadian peacekeepers among the 40,000 in the service of the UN (Janigan, 2003, p. 33); both supporters and critics of Canadian militarism agree that, at the very least, by 2001 Canadian peacekeeping had changed (Pellerin in Janigan, 2003, p. 33). In fact, the CAF were now very much in the business of war (Fremeth, 2010, p. 53; Murray & McCoy, 2010).

An important characteristic of the Canadian military-one that has changed little and is true of all militaries-is its ability, as a greedy institution, to demand loyalty and service at all costs (Coser, 1974; Segal, 1986). Greedy institutions have been characterized by Coser (1974) and others (Segal, 1986; Sullivan, 2014; Vuga & Juvan, 2013) as institutions requiring exclusive and undivided loyalty and devotion from their members; and, inevitably, also from the members' families (Segal, 1986; Vuga & Juvan, 2013).

Canada, the Reluctant Peacekeeper

Canada's military involvement in the immediate postwar period was slow and light. Canada was a peace observer in Palestine in 1948. Canada sent a few officers to the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan to oversee the dispute over Kashmir in 1949, and to the UN Truce Supervisory Organization to try to prevent war between Israel and its Arab neighbours in 1953. Canada was also involved in overseeing the conflict in Indochina, starting in 1954.

After observing the peace with the UN through the 1940s and 1950s, Canada's "true peacekeeping" is alleged to have begun in 1956, as part of the Suez crisis (Bouldin, 2003, p. 265). And what a celebrated start it was, as then Prime Minister Lester Pearson won the Nobel Peace Prize for Canada's role. This positive start set the stage for how Canadians would shape their national identity and form their perception of themselves vis-à-vis the rest of world for the following several decades (Abram, 2012). It helped construct a domestic vision of Canada as a custodian of global civility (Härting & Kamboureli, 2009). It also affected how soldiers and their families/partners understood the emerging role of Canadian soldier as peacekeeper (Segal, Segal, & Eyre, 1992).

Following the Suez crisis of 1956, John Diefenbaker's Conservative government, elected in 1957, believed that peacekeeping mattered. Canada became involved in Lebanon in 1958, Congo in 1960, and Cyprus in 1964.2 The Canadian Secretary of State for External Affairs, Paul Martin (Sr.), won international respect for Canada's efforts in Cyprus, as Canadian soldiers worked to prevent two NATO members, Greece and Turkey, from fracturing the alliance. Despite these promising beginnings, Canada was reluctant to get involved in UN missions, and early postwar governments "lurched from one military controversy to another" (Granatstein, 2012; Kasurak, 2013, p. 75). Challenges were rampant, and organizational restructuring was a common occurrence (Kasurak, 2013).

Unification and Reorganization of the Forces

The CAF in the postwar period were plagued by many challenges. Two problems identified early on were (1) the Forces' fragmented management and control structure and (2) their rising costs of maintenance and organization (Gosselin, 2009). Throughout World War I and II (Kasurak, 2013), but increasingly in the late 1940s and 1950s (Gosselin, 2009), it was recognized that the Forces needed to be reorganized and restructured. In 1964 the Pearson Liberal government tabled a White Paper on Defence that proposed an integrated administrative structure for the CAF under a single Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).3 Until this point, there had been 11 subordinate service commands.4 The Minister of National Defence at the time, Paul Hellyer, strongly supported the idea of an integrated...

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