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Monday, May 30, 2011

Feds should apologize to disbanded Airborne Regiment

Toronto Sun
May 30, 2011
They were Canada's best of the best.
Before Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2), the Canadian Airborne Regiment was the elite rapid-response unit in the Armed Forces for more than a generation - with roots reaching back to the Second World War.

Now, 16 years after the Somalia inquiry which resulted in its “disbandment in disgrace,” the final commanding officer of the regiment is demanding an apology from the federal government.

“When they disbanded the regiment, they tore the heart out of me, and of every other man that was serving that day and serving in that regiment before,” said retired colonel Peter G. Kenward. “It was a miscarriage of justice, it was grossly unfair and it was a politically expedient move by the Liberal government of the day.”

The regiment was a specialized group of Army soldiers selected to jump out of airplanes into hostile territory. The storied group of paratroopers traces back to the First Canadian Parachute Battalion, which landed behind enemy lines on D-Day in 1944.

Officially formed in 1968, the Canadian Airborne Regiment was most notably deployed during the 1970 October Crisis to thwart a terrorist threat from the FLQ, and in 1974 to Cyprus during a civil war.

It was the 1992 peacekeeping mission in Somalia where things went wrong. A Somali teenager was tortured and killed, and several Canadian soldiers were court martialed. After the official inquiry, the federal Liberal government disbanded the entire regiment.

“The soldiers, the people who built that regiment, 99.9% were so harshly punished for the misdeeds and the wrongs of a few,” said Kenward. “Under any justice system, that is totally unacceptable.”

Groups dedicated to the “Airborne Brotherhood” are filled with calls that the regiment be reinstated and the term “disgrace” removed from the official record. Many young soldiers still wear the disbanded colours.

The Conservative MP representing CFB Petawawa, the final home of the Airborne, supports the call.

“One way would be to resurrect the colours. They took down all of their symbols and to this day you can still see, peaking through a wall that was white-washed, the shadow of the Airborne,” said Cheryl Gallant. “It will be an honour for me, as a member of the Conservative majority government, to see how this historic wrong can be corrected.”


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