Engler, Yves. WE STAND ON GUARD FOR WHOM? A People’s History of the Canadian Military.
Black Rose Books, 2021 Montreal QC
Review by Theresa Wolfwood
“Is Canada a force for good in the world?”
In Stand on Guard for Whom? — A People’s History of the Canadian Military, Engler answers his own question in this revealing history of why we have a military and who it serves. Not surprisingly, as thousands of Canadian men and women die, not to defend Canada but to serve the needs of imperialism. First, we served the British empire with our training of only white males. Engler states that until a few decades ago the Air Force and the Navy only accepted white males. The right of women to be in the military is also recent and as we are learning, women are frequently abused and treated with contempt in a male hierarchy.
Engler explains our inflated military budget – along with many other military expenditures hidden in other departments. This now serves the interests of the United States of America imperialism; as we have seen in Afghanistan.
Canada has a dark history in the development of chemical and biological weapons; this reviewer remembers many actions around the research station at Suffield, Alberta. Canada continues to be one of the top three uranium producers and exporters in the world, starting with our providing the uranium for the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
This book is one of Engler’s longest ad most detailed works; it should be in every library and read by all Canadians. It seriously challenges our prevailing myths about good Canada “defending democracy”.
Even if it tried as Engler shows a racist, sexist hierarchy – a killing machine – is incapable of such a task.
It is shocking to learn that DND (Department of National Defense) owns more land and assets than any other government department. Engler writes that, DBD has “approximately 125,000 active soldiers, reservists and DND employees spread across 20,000 square kilometres of land. DND has the country’s largest PR machine and intelligence-gathering capacities. “
This book is a wide-ranging critique of the colonial and racist institution we support with our taxes, yet we can house and care decently for our own citizens.
At a book launch he started that the inherent sexism in the “toxic male” world of the military with its racist and colonial roots which we can still see in action from Oka to Israel.
Engler documents that the military produces more than 50% of the federal government’s carbon emissions, yet military environmental damage is exempt from all climate change negotiations and commitments.
There is much more to learn from this easy to read, carefully documented book. You can also get a sense of this work by viewing Engler’s book launch where he discusses some highlights of this important work, and what is most importantly, an urgent call for action. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3J9tovRJ0M
And finally, Engler leads us to question the role of a military institution in a so-called democracy. His evidence is damming. Throughout writing this review I hear Buffy St. Marie singing ‘The Universal Soldier” and her conclusion, “This is not the way to put an end to war.”
As Engler says, “One part of making the world a better place is to seek out non-military means to solve international and national problems. To do so we need to dismantle the military-industrial complex”.
A formidable task, but if we want to save and better humanity, we had better get at it.