Media barred from repatriation ceremonies

On Tuesday evening, the remains of the four Canadian soldiers killed in Iraq on Saturday will be repatriated to Canada. They will arrive at CFB Trenton. The ceremony that accompanies their arrival back on Canadian soil can be a moving and solemn one.

But as my colleague Craig Oliver reports tonight, Canadians, for the first time, are barred from seeing that ceremony — a permanent change of policy by the federal government.

The media will be barred from the airfield at Canadian Forces Base Trenton, Ont., when a plane carrying the remains of four Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan lands on Tuesday evening.

In the past, television and print media have been invited to attend when the bodies of Canadian soldiers who have fallen overseas are repatriated.

News organizations were informed of the media ban by telephone calls just before the end of business in Ottawa on Monday.

Government officials said the policy is permanent.

The move echoes one attempted by the administration of President George W. Bush. Worried over diminishing support for the Iraq mission, it tried — and failed — to prevent publication of images of caskets carrying American troops

But Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor insisted politics had nothing to do with the decision.

“I have made the most appropriate decision during this most emotional time for the families,” O'Connor told The Canadian Press.

“The repatriation of our fallen soldiers back to Canada is a private and solemn event between the families and the Canadian Forces.”

CTV's chief political correspondent, Craig Oliver, said it appears the Conservative government is concerned that, with the mounting casualties in Afghanistan, the mission is losing the battle for public opinion … [more]

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