Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/12/2010 (3919 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Separate polls released over the last week show that the Canadian military is the most trusted profession in the country, more than doctors, teachers and judges, and far more than the government and politicians it serves.
According to a poll by Ipsos Reid, 68 per cent of Canadians trust our soldiers, while Leger Marketing reported that over 75 per cent of those polled said they trusted the Armed Forces to do a good job. Even in Quebec, where the military traditionally has been held in lower regard than in the rest of Canada, trust in the country's soldiers was high.
The news is not surprising, but it is heartening for an organization that suffered decades of neglect, disdain and outright abuse.
The high level of trust is obviously related to Canada's mission in Afghanistan, where Canadians have performed with courage and skill. And despite extremely difficult circumstances, the soldiers have conducted themselves with restraint and professionalism. The court martial of Capt. Robert Semrau for killing an insurgent and the controversy over detainees, the details of which are still somewhat vague, were anomalies rather than the rule.
The attitude of Canadians toward the military drifted slowly into indifference following the Second World War and the Korean conflict.
The decline in stature accelerated in the 1960s, fuelled by the anti-war movement and by a succession of governments that were happy to deploy Canadians overseas, providing they were wearing blue helmets. New equipment -- ships, airplanes and tanks -- were added in the '70s and '80s, but they did nothing to enhance the reputation of the military, which remained largely disconnected from Canadian society in general.
The Defence Department was a junior ministry and the chiefs of the defence staff were largely unknown bureaucrats.
The collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and with it the expectation of a "peace dividend," set the stage for the decade of darkness -- as the military called it -- that followed.
Even though it became rapidly clear that the world was more unstable with the end of superpower rivalry, budgets were slashed and morale sank to a new low.
The performance of Canadians in Bosnia seemed like a new beginning, but it was quickly dashed by the Somalia scandal in 1993, when Canadian soldiers beat to death a Somali teenager.
When the army arrived to rescue Winnipeg in the Flood of the Century in 1997, and in parts of Eastern Canada following an ice storm in 1998, however, Canadians started to develop a new appreciation for their men and women in uniform.
Public perceptions of the military continued to rise following the deployment of a battalion to the Kabul region of Afghanistan in 2002, and then to Kandahar in 2005.
Budgets were increased, the Defence Department became a high-profile ministry, and military leaders were now in demand by the media, book publishers and as after-dinner speakers.
Today's soldiers have earned the trust of Canadians, but retaining the support of governments is another matter. The military, for example, is still one of the first places that politicians target when savings are needed, but it is harder to do than in the past. The popularity of its soldiers, then, is probably the most effective weapon in the military's arsenal.