It’s been said by many observers so far, myself include, that the upcoming fall election promises to be an especially vicious one. In the last few years, we’ve seen some online groups form that have stoked a lot this, put out all kinds of fact-free and inflammatory stuff intended to inflame people’s feelings. Canada Proud is one that has done a lot of this, gaining much infamy in the process for a lot of their content. Their content has been shared far and wide on social media, which has been part of their success, spreading a lot of torqued, partisan and sometimes misleading content.

Normally I don’t comment on such things, because this is a part of the social media ecosystem these days, for better or worse. But this week they put something out that simply went too far, not only because of the subject matter but because of the inference that they tried to make with it:

Before going into that post from Canada Proud and give my thoughts, I feel a bit of information would be helpful here. I am not an expert on this topic, so I’m going to share a Facebook post from a Mr. Wayne Johnston, who is a former Repatriation Officer to the Fallen with the Canadian Armed Forces. I believe what he posted is a must-read in this case:

Okay folks, I’m a big believer in facts and I believe that if you have facts on your side, you can criticize people for something they do or don’t do. For elected people, that comes with the territory and is completely fair game. They have a track record of actions and decisions that they must speak to, so there is nothing wrong with holding them to account for that, regardless of your partisan bent or view.

But what Canada Proud has done here is just way beyond the pale. For starters, the whole thing is premised on a falsehood, specifically that Canadian Prime Ministers normally attend the repatriation ceremonies of our fallen soldiers. They don’t, that’s not the protocol and as Mr. Johnston pointed out with great detail, “to allow politicians to attend would simply smack of party politics and be in very bad taste.” He even pointed to a case where he had to turn away none other than Don Cherry, who was brought to a repatriation by former Conservative cabinet minister Julian Fantino when he was OPP Commissioner.

So not only does Canada Proud try to paint Trudeau not going to a ceremony where, by protocol, he’s never supposed to be at, as some kind of slight to veterans and the family of the fallen, they add it that on the same day he’s taking a personal day. They try to say that he’s too self-absorbed or lazy or whatever, or at least infer as much. This is the worst kind of gutter crap politics, the kind of thing that has no place in our politics, period.

As the grandson of a World War II veteran, I have a great deal of respect for those who have served and sacrificed for us when they have been called upon to do so. They did it so generations like mine and those that have come after ours could have a better life and live in relative peace. That’s something that is deeply solemn and special, the kind of thing that should never be used to play partisan games and try to win votes.

If a party or leader does mistreat or disrespect veterans or our Canadian Forces, they deserve to face the full force of the criticism that they have earned through their actions or words. If the facts bear that out, there are no problems. But trying to land political cheap shots on the backs of a fallen patriot who served use, using mistruths and innuendo to do so, is completely disrespectful to that fallen soldier, their families, his comrades in arms and to all Canadians.

In the end, the repatriation of a fallen soldier is not about politicians but the fallen and showing them respect. The Prime Minister or any other elected politician is not allowed to be there because none of them are the Head of State and Commander in Chief of the Forces. Only the Governor General lays claim to those roles and it is her job to fulfill it. Turning such a solemn event into a media frenzy or a political football is the antitheses of what that event is supposed to be.

Trying to do that just displays a huge amount of disrespect on the part of those who dare to do it, and seriously puts into question their ethics, their motivations and their judgement. If you have to stoop to making things up to attack a politician, that just shows how weak your position is. I am no fan of Justin Trudeau and I believe he has a lot to answer for, but this isn’t one of them. This is a dirty, cheap and completely offensive attempt at character assassination on the part of Canada Proud. This has no place in our politics and needs to be called out.

If this episode becomes the rule and not the exception in the fall campaign, we are in for a long, painful election. Solid democracy is built on truth and facts, but if these kinds of gutter tactics flourish and succeed, all they do is eat away at the foundations of our democracy, the very foundations those soldiers and veterans fought to build and protect. In my opinion, to allow that to happen would be the greatest disrespect of all to their service.