Volunteers

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According to the CBC several Canadian veterans are planning on (or are already) fighting against ISIS. They say the Canadian government is not doing enough in the battle by sending over jets and advisors. The Minister of Public Safety says he doesn’t mind while the Chief of Defenses suggests they should simply re-enlist in the Canadian forces. Neither says what the consequences are.

Technically, it is not illegal for a Canadian to fight for another nation’s army. As long as that nation is not actually at war with Canada. Or, in this case, as long as the group you are fighting with is not considered a terrorist organization. In the case of the people who are fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq — some are not considered terrorist while others are. Wind up in the wrong foxhole and you will be tried for supporting a terrorist organization and perhaps even treason. In this case, the enemy of my enemy is not my friend.

Then there is the question of who takes care of you if you are captured or wounded. If you are killed, who, if anyone, takes care of your family? The Minister and the military is silent on this but the evidence is pretty clear.

No-one will take care of you. Go and fight in a foreign army and you are on your own. Now, one might cynically ask: how is that different than if you fight for the Canadian army? However, while veterans’ programs are completely inadequate, at least they do exist. Medical services are available above and beyond what is available to the public (and the recent announcement of more is welcome) and some form of payout or pension is provided. Again inadequate, but compared to what these volunteers will get, it is substantial.

Canada has a long history of having men, and sometimes women, volunteering to serve in foreign forces. Quite a number fought with the Americans and British in Iraq. Before that, thousands of Canadians enlisted with American forces to fight in Vietnam. The most famous contingent was the all-volunteer Mackenzie-Papineau battalion that fought on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War.

Of the former, they may have received some compensation from the governments of the countries they fought for — though most were not eligible for Veterans benefits. But they got nothing from Canada. Perhaps a country has no obligation to support those who choose to fight for other countries but maybe we shouldn’t put them in jail if we actually approve of who they are fighting.

The Mac-Paps were treated even worse. Not only were they not provided any compensation while fighting, they were treated as ‘communist scum’ when they got home.  Most were not actually communists at all but were drawn by an early understanding of and hatred for fascism. I expect the ‘scum’ quotient wasn’t high either. Even after it became clear that Franco was nothing but a puppet for Hitler and Spain a testing ground for German weapons, these volunteers were not rehabilitated — though they did become heroes of the left and that’s something.

But that’s ten minutes.

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