Homegrown jihadis: Canadians have always fought in other people’s wars – Granatstein

Jack Granatstein’s fine reminder that Canadians have often fought in other wars and conflicts:

The government of Mackenzie King tried to stop Canadians from going to Spain, and it passed the Foreign Enlistment Act in April, 1937, to prevent men from signing up for foreign wars. The volunteers went to Spain anyway, while countless others donated money to the cause. Most of the Canadians who went to fight – 76 per cent, according to Michael Petrou’s fine study of the Mac-Paps – were Communist Party members, most recent immigrants to the Dominion. The Mac-Paps earned a reputation for political unreliability and combat effectiveness, and at least 400 never returned home. These “premature anti-fascists” suffered for their political sins in the Second World War and Cold War years.

The Foreign Enlistment Act remained on the books, but it didn’t stop Canadian Jews from fighting for Israel or raising millions of dollars for its support. Ben Dunkelman, who had served with distinction with the Queen’s Own Rifles in Europe, went to Israel in 1948 and led a brigade with great success in Israel’s independence war. Many others did so, including George Buzz Beurling, a Royal Canadian Air Force fighter ace and a gentile, who joined the Israeli Air Force as a well-paid mercenary. Beurling died in an air crash in Rome on his way to the Middle East. Many other Canadian Jews served in the major Arab-Israeli wars of the following decades. Others serve in the Israeli military to this day, all presumably in violation of Canadian law.

Then there was the Vietnam War. While hard numbers are unavailable, estimates are that as many as 50,000 Canadians served in the U.S. military during that long, bloody struggle. Some enlisted out of the conviction that North Vietnam was an aggressor state, others presumably because of an adventurous spirit that could not be satisfied in the Canadian Forces because of Ottawa’s preference for United Nations peacekeeping. Once again, the law was not applied against Canadians who fought abroad.

None of those war veterans brought jihad home to Canada, a legitimate concern we live with today, although some communists who fought in Spain might have had attitudes inimical to the Canadian capitalist state. Most of the Islamist volunteers, if they survive to return to Canada, will likely settle down to a “normal” life. But so long as ideology, religion, adventurism and a soldier’s pay still matter, Canadians will likely continue going off to fight in other people’s wars.

Not sure where he stands on citizenship revocation in such cases, but clearly his expectation is that most will “grow out of it” and return to Canada, which may be a bit naive given the intensity of their beliefs and the nature of the organizations they are fighting with.

Homegrown jihadis: Canadians have always fought in other people’s wars – The Globe and Mail.

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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