Conservative policies on honouring fallen soldiers a "despicable" mistake, says father of fallen soldier

Jim Davis lost his son, Cpl. Paul Davis, last month in Afghanistan. On Mar. 2, Cpl. Paul Davis was on a routine patrol in a light-armoured vehicle outside Kandahar when it ran off the road after colliding with a taxi and flipped over. Cpl. Davis, the gunner, was killed and six other soldiers were injured, including Master Corporal Timothy Wilson, who later died.

Mr. Davis lives in Bridgewater, N.S. and I asked my colleague John Vennavally-Rao to ask Mr. Davis what he thinks of two Conservative government policies for honouring fallen soldiers. The first policy affects the policy on lowering the flag that flies on federal government buildings, including the Peace Tower, when a soldier dies. The Conservatives say the previous Liberal government was inconsistent in lowering flags for the dead in Afghanistan and that it will lower the flag only on Remembrance Day to honour soldiers killed at any time while in service.

“I can tell you.. I think it's a mistake,” Jim Davis said today. “Today we have 4 fallen soldier and I think it's despicable that were not lowering the flag for those families.”

Lincoln Dinning, the father of Cpl. Matt Dinning, who died over the weekend in Afghanistan, is also asking that flags be lowered for the dead in Afghanistan. In a cruel twist of fate, Lincoln Dinning wrote to the Prime Minister two weeks before his son was killed asking that Prime Minister Harper lower the flags.

Today in the House of Commons, Dinning’s MP, Liberal Paul Steckle, read Dinning’s letter to the Prime Minister so that it would become part of the Parliamentary Record:

Here is what Steckle said:

Mr. Paul Steckle (Huron—Bruce, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I recently received a letter from the father of the late Corporal Dinning. The letter was sent to the Prime Minister on April 7 and as per Mr. Dinning's request I will now read it to the House. He said:

As a proud Dad of a Canadian soldier currently serving in Afghanistan, I was glad to see that you made your first foreign trip to that country. You have said publicly many times that you support our troops and respect the job they're doing in Afghanistan. You even invited some of them to your Throne Speech this week. For all that I applaud you.    

My question is simple. For all the support and respect that you say publicly why do you choose not to fly the flag on Parliament Hill at half mast when one of our soldiers is killed. When I called your Heritage Minister's office this week to inquire as to why it hadn't been lowered for the death of Private Robert Costall, I was told it is usually only done for politicians and VIPs. I would suggest to you that there is no more important VIP than a Canadian soldier who gave his life in the service of his country.  

Please correct this wrong and show that actions speak louder than words and fly the flags at half mast the next time a Canadian soldier is killed…  

P.S.–I hope and pray that you won't have to lower the flag but since Afghanistan is a war zone the likelihood exists that more soldiers could die.   
Mr. Speaker, this letter is even more poignant as the next Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan was Mr. Dinning's own son.


Secondly and separately, Ottawa has now banned media coverage of the repatriation ceremony at Trenton.

The Prime Minister had this to say about that policy today in the House:

Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC): Mr. Speaker, as you will know and I think the member as a former minister of defence will know, when there is a fatality in Afghanistan or in another theatre of course the media does film the casket being loaded onto the plane in Afghanistan.

From that point on what the government will do is respect all traditional military practices and protocols.
In the case of dealing with funerals and families who are grieving, I know the Minister of National Defence's primary consideration is that we do everything possible to assist at the departmental and political level with the grieving the families may be holding. It is not about photo ops and media coverage. It is about what is in the best interest of the families.

Mr. Davis believes it is in the best interest of the families to have the media broadcast the repatriation ceremony.

“I'm hurt,” said Jim Davis.  “I'm hurt by it. Four soldiers come home today and the nation has to be reminded and when that flag comes down the public knows reminds them why comes down.. During my grieving days we received a lot of letters of condolence.. If they didn't know my son had died I wouldn't have received those condolences.. 

“If the media doesn't'carry the message to the public Canadians aren't gonna know.. I want to see what's happened this afternoon I want to tune on my TV see that grieve for those families. I'll be denied that opportunity so they are making a mistake.

Sharon Davis, the step-mother of Paul Davis, echoed her husband’s remarks. “Its so important to wrap arms around families… I really believe its robbing Canadian people to share n the grief.. Everyone wrote to us and said they were so proud.”

Jim Davis said he remembered seeing the TV cameras at his son’s repatriation. “When I noticed that that's when it hit me: The whole nation is watching this. I thought, ‘Gee, Paul. the whole country is watching’. He wouldn't have believed me. That was nice.”


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