I wrote Sun Columnist Lorrie Goldstein yesterday and invited him to check out my post and forward any related comments. He still stands by the Sun's editorial, but his extremely introspective response regarding media complaints about access-denial at Trenton caused me to reassess my own position:
"Just had a chance to read your blog. Thanks for the plug, but I must say I do agree with the Sun's stand on the issue of the media being allowed to attend the arrival of the soldiers' coffins in Canada.
The Sun, as you know, has always supported our military and we believe these "tarmac" ceremonies are an important part of our history that should be recorded by the media, as well as a compelling reminder to all Canadians of the enormous sacrifices our armed forces are sometimes called to make on our behalf.
In other words, if we're going to send the military into a war zone, then let's realize what a serious decision that is — BEFORE we send them — not after."
When I asked Lorrie for permission to publish his comments, he thanked me for asking and added the following:
"On the second point, while I believe it's important for the media to fight (figuratively speaking) for the right to be present at the airport ceremony, it does take place inside a military facility (Canadian Forces Base, Trenton, or at a similar location) which is, of course, a restricted area. In other words, if the military asks the families if they are comfortable with the media presence and any of them refuse, then the military is obviously within its rights to refuse us access. I would only ask that the issue be fairly put to the families - that is, that allowing the media to attend at the reception of the soldiers' coffins has been a long-standing practice and has not, to my knowledge, ever produced problems before. However, if the families still insisted on no media presence, then of course the military has the right, as it always has, to refuse us entry to the tarmac area.
Sorry, for the long-winded answer but I'm trying to draw a distinction between the media agreeing to restricted access, which I do not think we should do, as opposed to respecting the right of the military to restrict our access, based on the genuine wishes of the families. Our major objection is that the prime minister appeared to change a long-standing protocol which had not caused any controversy in the past without even asking the families, or, it appears from the latest reports, the military itself, if this was necessary. To me., it's simple - the prime minister said he was changing the protocol for the sake of the privacy of the families. Our question: Did he or someone from his office ask them?"
I have reproduced the emails almost in their entirety because I promised him that the essential meaning would not be changed, and I didn't want to upset my favourite columnist!
After reading Lorrie's very reflective message and the letter from Cpl. Ryan Maher, I have to ask what is wrong with just asking the families what their wishes are on an individual basis? As Cpl. Maher says, "if there is even one member of one family who would have liked the repatriation ceremony in Trenton to be private, then the media should respect that request with no questions asked." Seems reasonable to me.
I want to thank Lorrie Goldstein for taking the time to forward his thoughts and also for acknowledging the existence of the blogosphere. I think this is an excellent example of how MSM and bloggers can work together to produce constructive, dynamic discussion which is healthy for our democracy.
Now I am sitting here wondering if a giant lightening bolt is heading my way from Ottawa.
Probably not - it's a big tent.
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Update - I just checked out Garth Turner's blog. John, a "current serving member of the CF", makes the following points:
"On the flag front, I think the tories are correct in returning to the real protocol for flag lowering...Chretien used the death of 4 good men to make political hay for anti-US sentiments (Martin continued this trend). The only reason the flag was lowered for the first four in Afghan was to incite anger in Canadians as opposed to respecting the men that he sent there under equipped and with poor old equipment (which may have led to their deaths in the first place)...
On the funeral side of things, changing that policy back was again, to combat the MSM’s agenda to try and impact our foreign policy... Support our troops and leave this non-sense behind."
So here is my final question: Is this a matter of respect for family privacy or of policy protection? If the former, then why not ask the families? If the latter, how does one media ban make a difference when they are allowed everywhere else?
In any case, let's support our troops in more ways than just post-humously.