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Does Veterans Affairs' video blooper signal something more seriously amiss in Canada?

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Image: Screenshot of Veteran's Affairs video

On Thursday 13,000 soldiers of what used to be known as the Red Army marched through the heart of Moscow to military bands playing "The Sacred War" as Russia marked the 74th anniversary of the surrender of Berlin and the end of the road for Hitler's "Thousand Year Reich."

According to polling just before what is still known in post-Communist Russia as Victory Day, fully half the population of the country intended to attend a military parade or commemorative procession on May 9, marking what the West used to celebrate the day before, May 8, as V-E Day, for Victory in Europe.

I'm willing to bet that, even now, every one of those Russians old enough to attend grade school could tell you the difference between a photo of a German soldier of that terrible historical period and one from any of the nations fighting Germany and its allies, especially their own.

Which suggests something more profoundly amiss in Canada than a mere historical blooper in the at once appalling and hilarious story of the Veterans Affairs Canada commemorative online video that identified World War II German soldiers as, erm, Canadians, with the tagline Lest We Forget!

Amnesia, anyone?

Well, fortunately, a few Canadians hadn't forgotten, and the video was quickly pulled. No doubt a reedited version will appear soon enough without the soldiers wearing the Nazi eagle on their uniforms and characteristically German field caps in the first clip.

Probably the most obvious conclusion of this tempest, which is sure to be short lived, is that the historical education in Canadian schools no longer focuses on the 1930s and 40s, leading some poor advertising agency schmo to confuse the German Army of the day for the Canadian one.  If nothing else, this suggests the value of keeping a few older workers around the editing suite.

A more frightening possibility is that with the rise of the loony right in the West, including enabling of outright neo-Nazis by supposedly respectable conservative politicians, the fetishism of Nazi symbolism by the Canadian far right, and some of the unsavoury groups our armed forces are apparently training abroad mean this falls into the category of an "honest mistake."

In countries like Ukraine and Latvia, where Canadian troops are stationed today, people parade publicly in uniforms of the German-allied forces of the Second World War, including the distinctive "coal bucket helmets" of the Wehrmacht. Tucked discreetly away in a corner of West Edmonton, for heaven's sake, there's a memorial to veterans of the 14th Division of the Waffen SS. I kid you not.

So maybe the confusion of the video editors is more understandable than we 21st Century Canadians would like to admit. I hesitate to use the word "reeducation," but a little historical refresher course might be in order.

Question for Jason Kenney: Is doing politics during school hours always bad, or just sometimes?

When a hundred or so Edmonton high school students walked out of school earlier this month to protest the United Conservative Party Government's plan to weaken protections for LGBTQ students, and when about 300 skipped classes to protest inaction on climate change, Premier Jason Kenney was concerned.

"We want to make sure young people are learning in class instead of doing politics outside of school during school hours," Kenney griped.

But what did Premier Kenney have to say when 1,000 or so students mostly from Roman Catholic schools were bused to Edmonton to take part in the anti-abortion March for Life on Thursday?


No point calling up and asking the the old anti-abortion campaigner for a comment. It's not the sort of thing the UCP responds to. But if you know a member of the Alberta Legislature Press Gallery, it might be worth urging them to pop the question next time they have the chance.

I mean, seriously, what's the difference as far as Kenney is concerned? That the anti-abortion protesters doing politics were in the company of their teachers? That public funds paid part of the cost of their political demonstration?

Can you imagine what Kenney would have said if the GSA or environmental protesters had been joined by their teachers?

There's something very wrong with this picture.

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca

Image: Screenshot of Veteran's Affairs video

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