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Citizens group calls for an end to political photo ops on Remembrance Day

To call any infantry soldier a "pawn" of any sort is likely a very bad idea, especially on Remembrance Day, and yet that is what soldiers have become in the political sphere.

Photos of soldiers make it into the media today -- soldiers with lots of medals and tears and poppies and standing next to them are the politicians-du-jour as if the soldier's sacrifice wasn't enough.

Now we expect them to stoically stand beside men (and sometimes, but rarely, women) who have no idea of the meaning behind the words their speech writers hurriedly wrote up the night before, if they didn't just copy and paste from years past.

I mean, who really listens to these speeches anyway.

If I had my way, only veterans could speak without fear of recourse or corrective action if they stepped out of line.

As to their own service, these soldiers have or are trying to make sense of the smells, lights, sounds and chaos and don't need a politician pontificating over their shoulder.

To be able to grieve in private, or amongst their own, is the kindest gift civil society can ever give.

Not to be stared at, photographed as they simultaneously try to remember and forget.

Whatever Remembrance Day was before I was born, I don't know. But other than on Veterans Day I doubt it was so much a spectacle that people referred to it as a celebration as oppposed to a ceremony.

Probably small towns gathering around a monument -- the kind of town where everyone knows everyone, and every lost soul is once again accounted for.

Now it's a big hurrah! Staged in the name of the whole nation wanting to honour these veterans but more and more seemingly like a federal party photo op or script for war.

Into this fray comes a citizen's group from Newfoundland and Labrador called Our Duty that seeks to bring an end to politically-influenced photo ops during Remembrance Day ceremonies.

This citizen's group founded in Newfoundland and Labrador wants politicians to refrain from using Remembrance Day for political purposes.

Their group is following the lead of a national coalition of veterans who are calling for an end to politically motivated photo ops.

Our Duty Group spokesperson, Jeff Rose-Martland says he is not asking for politicians to not show up, just for respect and that photo lenses be directed at the veterans instead.

The Our Duty presser, released in response to events on Parliament Hill, states, "Earlier this week, in response to questions in the Commons about veterans benefits, VAC Minister Julian Fantino responded, 'This week I call on all members to hold off on their politics and focus their energy on remembrance.'"

The issue here is not that politicians are not welcome at Remembrance Day ceremonies (again the next person who calls it a "celebration" is gonna be beaned in the head) -- in fact, they are an important part of the ceremony -- just not the most important part.

It is an insult to focus on politicians especially in light of the numerous demonstrations of Parliament Hill by veteran groups and their families. Many stating frankly that they feel betrayed by the Conservative government. As reported in the Toronto Star back during a major demonstration on July, 4, 2014, veterans of all stripes and bars gathered on Parliament Hill.

There, Maj. Mark Campbell, who had lost both of his legs in a bomb explosion in Afghanistan, told the demonstration that the trauma he endures to this day isn’t because of his wounds, but rather Ottawa’s uncaring attitude to Canada’s wounded veterans. He stated that it was especially the young injured soldiers that are being pushed out of the military into a life of "financial destitution" made worse by what he called the "miserly mentality" at the Veterans Affairs Department.

The Senate Committee did add its voice to a call for change concerning how the bureaucracy around veteran affairs operate -- specifically around the transition from soldier to civilian life -- but these have been slow in their release.

Hopefully not slow enough that a war of attrition breaks out between the Federal government and the remaining veterans.

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