The Canadian military has quietly stopped reporting when soldiers are wounded on the battlefield (Murray Brewster, “Canada forbids reporting of battlefield wounded,” Globe and Mail, 23 March 2010). In order to satisfy the public’s right to know what is going on in Afghanistan, the military says it will instead provide an annual report on battle-related injuries.
The policy shift is described as a tactic to keep the Taliban in the dark about the number of Canadian soldiers wounded in specific incidents. Not reporting the number of wounded will prevent the Taliban from using that information to improve their tactics and cause more Canadian deaths in future attacks.
According to Brewster, it is unclear when the practice was officially started and whether it was a recommendation made on the ground or an order from National Defence headquarters in Ottawa.
A lot of attention is paid to those Canadian soldiers who are killed in action, and rightly so. By contrast, the hundreds of soldiers who are severely wounded in Afghanistan usually go home in relative anonymity and silence.
As of the end of December 2009, 529 Canadian soldiers have been wounded in action in Afghanistan, according to the government’s latest statistical assessment. The statistics go back to 2002.
CBC’s Brian Stewart reports on other information that the Department of National Defence has been withholding:
“What our military isn’t telling us,” CBC News, 18 March 2010
Photo by Sergeant Serge Gouin