I had been waiting for the news clutter to clear for a bit before posting on the shooting of an Afghanistani taxi driver by Canadian soldiers. Initially, when I read of the shooting, my first thought was that it was the car driver's fault. Canadian soldiers are well trained, they do not start shooting just like that, and the 'locals' should know better. However, after reading a bit more on the shooting incidents in Afghanistan, I have been forced to change my mind on a few issues.
First, I read that upwards of 90 per cent of the Afghan population is illiterate. As such, they would not read newspapers where the Canadians have taken out advertisements on how to deal with military vehicles. There are many dialects of the local languages, and the Canadians speak English. Would they be able to adequately convey, in time to a speeding vehicle, on how to stop at a safe distance?
Second, soldiers make mistakes. It must be remembered that Canadian soldiers were fired at by American soldiers in Afghanistan last year. Presumably our soldiers were well aware of the rules of engagement and the need to maintain a safe distance from a NATO military vehicle. As an aside I find it surprising that the Americans would fire at another NATO vehicle.
Third, now there is the talk of compensation. The family of the Afghan man shot has asked to be transferred to Canada. He is reputedly the bread-winner for 15 family members. Knowing the setup of a traditional poor rural South Asian family, that may well be true. The talk of compensation and smoothing of ruffled feathers is important - for there have been at least 11 incidents involving Canadian convoys and patrols where shots were fired when the public came too close, although this was the first to result in a fatality. There could be more fatalities in the future.
I believe the immediate compensation should be as follows - we should find out how much this man earned per month, and pay that amount (minimum) to the family every month. Afghanistan follows 'Sharia' law, which specifies 'blood money' in case of accidental death. We should pay the family that blood money as well. Should we let them come to Canada? That is a decision for the Immigration Minister to decide. It is easy at this moment to criticize the family for being greedy (which I initially thought of doing), but none of us have lost our fathers to a foreign soldier's gun.
Finally, we should do a thorough investigation of this incident, and punish the soldier (court martial, demotion) if he is indeed found guilty of acting in a hasty manner (which I doubt - I still trust Canadian soldiers and their training). Nevertheless, an innocent civilian has been shot dead. Further review of this incident should take place to minimize such tragedies in the future. I was happy to see most of our media, while supporting our troops and their mission, not shying away from exploring the personal anguish of the unfortunate Afghan family.
Tags: Canada in Afghanistan Soldier Tragedy