Jan 31, 2014, the independent social organization Sports Without War published
a satirical press release designed to expose
the hypocrisy inherent in the annual Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE)
“Forces Appreciation Night.”
fake press release, MLSE announced that they would honour not only Canadian
soldiers in Afghanistan but also the thousands of Afghan civilians killed in
the conflict. The press release further acknowledged that while Canadian
soldiers get much fanfare for fighting in Afghanistan, they are given very little
material support upon their return, as they struggle with physical and
emotional trauma from the violent occupation. Finally, the press release
suggested that both Canadians and Afghans deserve to enjoy sports and
entertainment in peace.
press release was designed to say the things that would more closely reflect
the values of most Canadians, including many Afghan-Canadians.
Unfortunately, up until now, Forces Appreciation Night has glorified the
military mission in Afghanistan, presenting dazzling displays of soldiers
rappelling from the rafters with hard rock music pumping, as if the war was
uncomplicated and Canada was obviously on the “right” side. But around 80% of Canadians are opposed to this
war, with good reason, and many soldiers themselves come home traumatized and
disillusioned from a brutal and
who have participated in the Sports Without War initiative are pretty average
Canadians. We are hockey fans; we cheer for the Leafs, the Oilers, sometimes
even the Canucks. And we want to know why our hockey teams are promoting
a war that most Canadians, even many in the military, do not want.
showed in the public’s response to the press release – not only did it generate
positive responses from fans of Leafs Nation (and many other hockey fans who
stated that they now supported the Leafs as a result of this new initiative!),
but American and British veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq also expressed their
support upon seeing the fake press release. This shows that there is an
audience – the majority of Canadians – who would support MLSE should they take
action to properly represent what the war in Afghanistan has meant for the
Afghan and Canadian people.
have paid $18 billion for the war in Afghanistan, even while the average hockey
fan is paying more for housing, health care, child care and transportation than
ever before. On the other side of the ocean, after 12 years of war in
Afghanistan, that country is not safer, not wealthier and not more free.
In fact, the Canadian mission has made it worse. Some 70% of Afghans live
in extreme poverty, several thousand civilians are killed each year, and the
situation for women in Afghanistan has actually worsened since the occupation
began in 2001.
are told that we are helping to “rebuild” Afghanistan. Yet less than 10%
of the money spent on this war has been in aid and development, and more than
half of that money has gone directly into the hands of Canadian corporations
who were granted contracts for this “development.” That leaves only about
5% of the Canadian budget that actually stays in Afghanistan, and that money is
typically doled out selectively to allies of the Karzai dictatorship, who often
siphon off a big cut for themselves.
people who seem to be benefiting from the war are the white-collar millionaires
who sit on the boards of Kilo Goldmines, Lockheed Martin, Canaccord Financial,
or SRK Consulting, all firms that are profiting handsomely from the war in
Afghanistan. Perhaps it is no surprise that MLSE, whose board of
directors includes some of Canada’s biggest corporate
bigwigs, are so keen to promote a conflict that is helping their
buddies get rich. MLSE board member Dale Lastman, for instance, is also
the Chair of Goodman LLP, a law firm whose members testified on the Commission on
Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Another big
name on the MLSE board, George Cope, is the CEO of Bell Canada, whose directors
have sat on key advisory panels on the war in
Afghanistan, and have held cabinet positions in the Harper
to feel like we’re all being duped. Canadian soldiers are putting their
bodies and mental health on the line. Canadian civilians are paying the
massive cost of the war. Afghans are being subjected to violence and
destruction and dictatorship. MLSE claims that Forces Appreciation Night
supports the men and women who fight for Canada abroad. But the event
ignores the facts about the actual war they are fighting, and in creating a
celebratory military spectacle, it has actually done a disservice to soldiers
and civilians in Canada and Afghanistan.
majority of Canadians don’t support this war, and we want our $18 billion
dollars back, so we can rebuild our schools and our streets and our
subways. We want Canadian troops brought home and given peace jobs.
We want to give Afghanistan back to the people who live there, and we want to
be a country known for our abilities on the ice, not for destroying other
people’s lives who we don’t even know. If you want to help us get this message
out, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s talk.