Glorious and… a lot cheaper than other countries

Dianne St. Jean

I don’t know about you, but there’s something that stirs my heart when I see an array of troops travelling down the highway. Perhaps it’s because we don’t get the chance to see this very often, maybe it’s just the visual representation of the strength and protection we have in our military, or maybe it’s just nostalgia from watching old movies.

The word military stems from the root for “miles” and therefore implies a covering of distance. Hence a soldier or person in the military is “one who marches” or covers distance. Tying that in with that old nostalgia thing, one’s mind snaps back to images from old movies of troops (usually Roman) marching across vast landscapes and distances.

Our present day troops still cover many miles (now to us, kilometers) and are capable of travelling even much further distances in less time because of modern technology. Either way, I like to think of our troops as people who “go the extra mile” for us.

While there are some similarities among troops across time and place, when we look at our own in Canada, there are some obvious differences.

One of the primary and most obvious is the fact that women are allowed to serve alongside men. In Canada, these equal opportunities are not only expected, they are taken for granted. There are many nations on the face of this earth whose women are not even allowed to go out alone or unaccompanied by a man, let alone serve in some form of defense alongside them. In fact, equality in terms of gender among western nations such as Canada is not the rule, but the exception.

And while we should be spending more on our military for the excellent job they do, the reality is that in terms of expense to the nation overall and us as individuals, our military is quite inexpensive in terms of the service they provide for us. For example, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute 2017 Fact Sheet, Canada’s expenditure (2016) on its military is way down the list – 16th in fact; and in terms of National Defence Budgets (latest numbers from 2015), our country did not even make it on the list of the top 15.

But to me one of the most significant differences is the safety and security that our forces provide.  I’ve travelled to a number of different places and have studied many cultures, and I know that when I see Canadian troops on the move it means they are either protecting us or helping in some other capacity. Not always openly visual to the public, we usually see them during times of disasters such as floods and fires, providing relief and support to those in crisis situations. In the most recent example in the BC interior, their presence allowed reprieve for those who were battling flames on non-stop twelve-hour rotating shifts in grueling conditions. 

The biggest difference is that, when I see them, I feel safe and not threatened. I’ve travelled to countries where you dare not look toward troops or meet their eye. I know individuals who come from countries where the military stirs up feelings of fear, terror and insecurity; where their guns are pointed at you to keep you in place rather than pointing at someone or something threatening you.

For certain, as in everything, there will always be a few “bad apples”, but what would our country be like if the whole military was rotten and corrupt?

There is a reason why so many people from so many other nations flock to Canada. As our anthem says, it is a land glorious and free – free because we are well served and protected, and in comparison to other nations, for pretty cheap. Let’s not take them for granted.