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Canadian Academics Under Fire For Opposing Scholarship Program For Children of "Heroes" Who Died In War

Fifteen university professors have written a letter calling Canada's "Project Hero" scholarship "a dangerous cultural turn" that associates "heroism" with military intervention.

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Since 2001, polls have indicated that a majority of Canadians have supported Canada's involvement in Afghanistan (though there have been some fluctuations), while favoring "nation-building" over military operations. Canadians have also remained committed to withdrawing sooner rather than later. No doubt aware of Canadians' professed desire to leave Afghanistan, the Conservatives recently  reiterated that they will end military operations in Afghanistan in 2011, despite calls made by the U.S. for Canada to stay.

Canadians have shown decreased involvement in the political process -- the 2008 elections resulted in the lowest voter turnout in Canadian history -- but as shown by the professors at U of R, dissent is alive and kicking. Even from a Prairie province where the Conservatives have historically enjoyed widespread support, people are speaking out against the increasing militarization of Canadian society, something which many view as harmful to Canadian culture as a whole. For members of the Canadian academic community to take such a stance in a province dominated by militarism -- and amidst a political atmosphere of general support for Canada’s military operations in Afghanistan -- is no small matter. Indeed, these professors have proven that their concern for the youth they are employed to educate goes beyond their desire to advance their career goals or a need to remain silent to avoid criticism. They have been criticized for dishonoring their country with the position they have taken, but many Canadians would agree that they are in fact attempting to preserve the most honorable merits of Canadian culture.  In the words of the social critic and feminist activist Barbara Ehrenreich:

No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots.

 The original version of this article was published on PULSE.