SIMPLY SPOKEN: Canadian defence indefensible

I was lying in bed last week, spaced out from migraine meds and depressed from feeling out of sorts and useless, when I finally found something that made me laugh: “Guards walk off job at four B.C. border crossings.” As you may already know-and as I quickly found out-Canadian border guards have the right to walk off the job if things get dangerous. In this case, the danger was yet another crazed American criminal suspect trying to run north.

I had a little cartoon picture running through my head of 60 Canadian border guards, standing strong, guarding the border and gossiping like old hens: “There might be an American coming our way with a gun!” “That sounds scary!” “Let’s run away!”

Really though, the joke is on me. There have been two hot topics in the news lately: Guns and the war on terror. This minor headline on the B.C. border guards, however, made me realize that there was only one hot topic, not two. The bottom line in every big news story lately is that Canadians don’t like the idea of dying.

The New Democratic Party wants to pull Canada out of the conflict in Afghanistan because 40 people have been killed. Fourty. The outrage over one girl murdered in Montreal was nationwide. There were three school shootings in the US the week before last. By the time the third one happened, most Americans had nothing more to say than “Again?” before going back to their normal lives. Canadians would not be able to take a week of school shootings so calmly.

Should Canadians have the legal right to run away from danger, even if it is at odds with their moral obligations?

To be honest, I am having a little bit of trouble understanding the issue. Guards are supposed to protect. In most countries, guards are armed. How are unarmed guards supposed to protect a country from someone with a gun? They can’t, which is why the border guards in B.C. have run away from their jobs four times this year.

Should we give the border guards guns? Looking a man in the eyes and shooting him is not something that average people can easily bring themselves to do; even soldiers-hired and trained to defend their country with their lives-sometimes have trouble firing when ordered to do so. Would arming the border guards really keep them from running away? Hopefully it would give them a feeling of safety and help them to stay at their jobs.

If the Conservatives were smart, they would revoke the law allowing guards to run away. But such a move might not go over so well with the ultra-cautious, safety-obsessed Canadian public.

Harper’s plan is to arm and train half of all border guards over the course of the next decade. Guards have been pushing for the right to carry guns for years. Why doesn’t the government speed up the process a little? Surely with an extra $13.2-billion lying around-the amount of the most recent budget surplus-a little bit can be put to use to speed up the arming of the border guards in the interest of protecting those whose job it is to protect us.

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