I'm glad you were able to use my letter in your piece to the PM. You are saying for so many what is on their minds. Let me give you my take on this, from a bit of historical perspective. At this point, the following is a personal opinion, not reflective of my professional life. It is the opinion of Rob, citizen of the Adler Nation.
My grand dad's family came to Canada from Germany, and settled in Walkerton, Ontario. They farmed, he learned how to butcher. In 1916, with war raging and Canadians being lost by the hundreds on an almost daily basis he joined the fight. But not for the Kaiser, not for his homeland of birth. He went to fight for CANADA. This German by heritage Canadian boy went to fight for the country that had given his family hope, peace, and livelihood. Notice there is no hyphenated German-Canadian description. He came HERE. He was CANADIAN of German birth. In August of 1918 he served with the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles, and while on a mounted charge against dug in German positions, he was shot through the left shoulder. Only one of about a dozen from his squad to make it back to the lines. The difference between just another white cross in a small French cemetery, and my ability to write this to you is truly a matter of a few millimetres. After the war, he married and had several children, including my mother. She is now 87. She tells of how she didn't learn to speak English until she was about 5. They still only spoke German at home, and they had moved to Kitchener, where a vibrant Canadian community of German descendants thrived. (Previously, Kitchener was known as Berlin, but the name was changed by those living in the community to honour Lord Kitchener, whose leadership in the Great war was legendary).
What a crazy time!!! What crazy ideas!! Come to Canada to make a better life. Bring your own culture and language. WORK THE LAND ! EARN A LIVING ! RAISE YOUR FAMILY TO BE THANKFUL FOR THEIR GOOD FORTUNE ! And when your country calls, answer.
My mom tells me how she can vividly remember the small scar of the front of his left shoulder, and the large scar on his back. He was shot going forward, face on INTO the enemy. He wasn't fighting for the enemy. I'm sure the idea of suing the government for his wounds would have been seen as traitorous. It would also have been the furthest thing from his mind.
In light of this example alone, I'm trying to find out how describing Omar Khadr and his family as Canadian is in any manner appropriate. Where did our standards change?
My dad volunteered for service in 1940, and served with the 12th Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery. He was an aspiring hockey player, and was playing for the Waterloo Siskins when he volunteered.
Living the Canadian dream on ice. A dream unfulfilled.
He fought through the hell that was D Day, and like many of our valiant men, came head on with Hitler's notorious 12th SS Panzer Division. What made this enemy so dangerous? They had been trained, they had seen battle before, and many of them had been Hitler Youth. As teenagers they had bought into a skewed, prejudicial, evil ideology, presented to them as teens or even earlier, and had vowed to die for a radical extremist leader. They viewed anyone not of their kind as a lesser race. After the war, many said that they had been forced to join the Hitler Youth. It is, in this case, well established that many did join under threat of death or injury to their family members. But many joined in support of immoral ideas spawned by a charismatic maniac, and were following in their father's footsteps.
Omar Khadr is no different. We know he was following in his father's footsteps. There is no indication of his father forcing him to go. He glorifies that he has been in the presence of Bin-Laden. No doubt he was sold an ideology by his father, which was furthered in training and in battle against the western allies. Not Taliban??…then you are a lesser race. And you need to be killed. And he would have pledged to die for the cause. Are we seeing a similarity here?
The scenes of these motivated and dedicated teenage Nazi troops would repeat all through the Allied advance. How brutal for one of our soldiers to come upon the body of the soldier that tried to kill him, maybe killed his friends, and find him to be a kid. I am sure many still live with the pain, the memories. My dad was there, he saw.
But at the end of the war, my dad ended up at a place called Bergen-Belsen, and was able to view firsthand the nature of the lowest of human depravity. Those teenagers that had been the enemy were also the ones who were dedicated to carry on this horror. My dad could talk about the pain and terror of battle. He could talk about being mistakenly bombed by a low flying package of Lancaster bombers as his regiment and several others were trapped in an open quarry. He could talk about how they didn't find remains of many men, so total was the devastation. He could not, however, speak even a word of what he had seen at Bergen-Belsen. Maybe it took a bit out of the sting of having to kill those teenage Nazis, but caused him even greater pain about the dark potential of man. And nowhere have I ever heard these enemy youth referred to as "child soldiers".
History has identified them as they were.
Omar Khadr is coming back with his ideology intact, and he will no doubt continue to espouse his vitriole against the western world, and the country which gave he and his family OPPORTUNITY…and I would submit they have let this great opportunity slip by. Oh but he has another opportunity !!! The opportunity to sue the government, the Canadian people!! A chance to fire one more shot, throw one more litigious grenade at the same country who gave his family a chance for true freedom. And of all the opportunities presented to he and his family, this is the one he takes.
If his "pain" is worth ten million dollars, then our country will go bankrupt trying to pay our veterans what they are owed on even a diminished comparative scale.
But they won't sue. They are Canadians. They love their country.
They hate war, because they have seen it. They know the value of peace, because they have paid for it.
I say we let these learned and educated men make the determination on Omar Khadr.
On a side note Charles, if you ever need to get picked up at Pearson, let me know. Menzies Sport trac "Adrenaline Edition" just doesn't cut it. I'll pick you up in my truck…a MAN'S truck…a 1996 H1 Hummer. The Humvee with nice seats and a stereo. Not a girly H2. By comparison, The Menzoid's truck is actually an "Estrogen Edition". And no Mcd's…go for man food. Beer and wings at the police club!!
Lastly, if you happen to be watching Coaches Corner on Hockey Night tonite, there may be footage from my dad's regiment playing hockey at their training camp in Sussex N.B. in 1941. My dad is on there. He died in 1980, but just maybe tonight I get to brag, "Hey..I watched my dad playing hockey on Hockey Night in Canada." How cool is that ??
Keep in touch.
With thanks from a fan and proud citizen of the Adler Nation,
Video of Sgt. Rob Cullen's dad on Coach's Corner. This is the first time this hockey footage from 1941 has ever been publicly viewed.