02 July 2009

Why privilege the sons and daughters of the military?

Four Canadian universities will participate in a program that offers scholarships to children of parents killed in active Canadian military missions. "It is ... a way of honouring those who pay the ultimate price for serving their country," said University of Calgary vice-provost Ann Tierney.

The program raises some obvious questions. For instance, why offer scholarships selectively to the sons and daughters of parents who died serving in the military? Surely, other young people who have lost a parent are equally deserving.

As for their parent's sacrifice while serving their country, why should that privilege the sons and daughters? They didn't make the sacrifice. And what is special about dying while serving your country in the military? We all serve our country, at least those who are employed do, and people in many professions make the ultimate sacrifice while performing that service: construction labourers, fishermen, firemen, journalists, and so on. The project was launched by retired general Rick Hillier, now chancellor of Memorial University of Newfoundland. As a Newfoundlander, Hillier should recognize that the son or daughter of a fisherman who is lost at sea is every bit as deserving as the son or daughter of a soldier who is lost in Afghanistan. It may be politically incorrect to say so, but I see no reason to especially honour those who serve their country wearing uniforms and carrying guns.

If any young people are burdened in obtaining their education because of the loss of a parent, let's help them according to their need, not according to who their parents were.

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