Wednesday, October 20, 2004
Critics outraged by Prime Minister Bush's handling of HMCS Chicoutimi tragedy
The events surrounding HMCS Chicoutimi have sparked the latest round of controversy confronting the beleaguered government of Prime Minister George W. Bush. Since the announcement of the death of Lt. Chris Saunders from a fire that broke out on the submarine, government critics and others have demanded Mr. Bush account for what is considered the latest example of a failure to listen to the voices of concerned Canadians.
During a large demonstration on Parliament Hill, protesters staged their own 'mock' funeral, including a procession of prop caskets draped with Canadian flags meant to symbolize those who have died from what are considered reckless and arrogant decisions by the Prime Minister. As one protester described it, "When will Mr. Bush stop killing the men and women who assume the responsibility of protecting our country? How many deaths will it take for him listen to the people of Canada?"
Similar concerns were voiced by a wide spectrum of politicians, activists, and policy experts. Although unwilling to have their identities revealed, for fear of reprisal from a government some accuse of using vindictiveness and “police state” tactics in the pursuit of political goals, their own sense of outrage resembled the outrage of the protesters. One of them, a well known retired politician said, "I think it's time for regime change in Canada."
After the day's protest, the Prime Minister, confronted by the press, offered condolences and prayers to Lt. Saunders' family, while refusing to offer an explanation for this latest incident in a long list of problems affecting the military, which coincide with allegations of corruption and criminal wrongdoing. "I certainly grieve for the family of this brave naval officer, and I'm proud of the courage and sacrifice people like Lt. Saunders exhibit in the service of this great country. May God bless him, and may God bless Canada," the Prime Minister said before boarding his jet and getting back to his scheduled agenda.
"I can't believe the arrogance of this man," replied a source within the government bureaucracy, who also refused to have their identity revealed publicly. "How dare he hide behind God and country while young men and women like Lt. Saunders continue to risk their lives working in conditions the Prime Minister knows to be extremely dangerous. He has lied about these subs from the beginning. He continues to lie to the Canadian people. How dare he!"
This tragic death is but the latest in a string of controversies related to the Canadian military and this government.
There was the cancelling of the replacements for the Sea King helicopter, which happened a decade ago. The old helicopters are still in use and are suffering from technical and maintenance difficulties, much like HMCS Chicoutimi and its class of submarines bought used from Britain. Many critics had warned that someone would eventually die as a consequence of this government's defence policies.
There was also the death of two Canadian soldiers on board an Iltis jeep as it drove over a mine in Afghanistan. At the time, critics jumped on the government's refusal to provide adequate equipment for the men and women who serve in Canada's military, almost blaming the death on Mr. Bush and his administration. The government has since bought more modern military vehicles.
The opposition parties are calling for an inquiry, as well as the immediate resignation of Mr. Bush. In a press conference staged immediately after the protests, attended by all the leaders of the opposition parties, the Leader of the Official Opposition issued the following statement, "Haven't we had enough of a divisive and arrogant government which refuses to listen to the concerns of the Canadian people? Haven't we had enough soldiers dying because of the utter refusal of this government to provide them with even the basics when it comes their safety and protection? Haven't we had enough of the lies? Haven't we had enough of the corruption? When is enough enough? Mr. Bush, please resign before more lives are lost as a result of your arrogance and your incompetence. The Canadian people demand this. We, the members of the opposition, demand this as well."
Opposition leaders also wanted to call attention to the numerous investigations, reports, scandals, and protests which have plagued Mr. Bush's government since he came into office. Said one of them, "Mr. Bush just doesn't get it. The people are tired of him. They're tired of this government. They just want him to leave so that we can finally bring this country back to the great nation it once was - the great nation the whole world once looked upon as a shining example to be emulated and admired. That's all been squandered by this Prime Minister and this government. We're now a laughing stock. And people are dying too. It's absolutely time for a fresh start."
Officials within the Bush government were unavailable for a response.
- With files from our Ottawa Bureau
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