From the Toronto Globe and Mail:
OTTAWA — The media will be banned from CFB Trenton today when the bodies of four Canadian soldiers killed over the weekend in Afghanistan return home.
The decision to mirror a practice that is controversial in the United States follows an announcement on Sunday that the flag on the Peace Tower will not be flown at half-mast to mark the deaths.
The two events have some in opposition accusing the Conservative government of a deliberate attempt to limit public knowledge of the human cost of Canada’s mission in Afghanistan.
Defence Minister Gordon O’Connor issued a statement yesterday confirming the change, saying the arrival of the soldiers’ bodies is a private event for the grieving families.
Liberal defence critic Ujjal Dosanjh called the media ban “absolutely un-Canadian” and “absolutely manipulative.”
“It’s extremely disturbing that this government would take a page out of [U.S. President George] Bush’s modus operandi,” Mr. Dosanjh said.
The Liberal MP said the media ban, coupled with the new flag policy, shows the Conservatives are trying to play down negative images of war so as not to lose public support.
“For the life of me, I can’t imagine any other reason,” he said.
South of the border, U.S. President George W. Bush invoked the ban on media coverage of returning coffins in 2003 on the eve of the invasion of Iraq.
Since then, a few photos have emerged in the U.S. media through access-to-information requests, but the dead soldiers remain unidentified.
According to media reports, the U.S. ban was inspired by current Vice-President Dick Cheney in 1991 when he was defence secretary to former president George H.W. Bush. A ban was invoked at that time after U.S. television networks showed split-screen images of the president and returning coffins.
The ban was eased under Bill Clinton’s administration and for the first two years of George W. Bush’s administration.
I suppose a case could be made for the restrictions at the CFB; it is a private matter for the families, but to not lower the flags in honor of these soldiers is an insult to the soldiers.