Grown up with war: Old Scona students reflect on Afghan mission
Edmonton students say it's unfortunate combat role under-explored in school
Even from a young age, Sarah Korobkov had an interest in international events. Her parents were politically active and her mother had a history degree.
"I was concerned. Because when you hear your country's going to war, even though it's primarily a peacekeeping mission, it's scary," said Korobkov, a student at Old Scona Academic High School in Edmonton.
Korobkov is just one of a many of Canadian students who have hardly known a time their country has not been at war. Now that Canada's military role in Afghanistan has concluded, capped by an understated flag ceremony in Kabul earlier this week, those students are considering what's next for Canada's international role.
"Growing up with this war, it'll be somewhat strange that Canada doesn't have anywhere, really, to go in terms of military combat. And I think it will be nice to have some peace in Canada," said Tony Basue, another Grade 12 student at Old Scona.
In late 2001, Canada joined the NATO-led campaign to dismantle the al-Qaeda's safe haven. As many as 40,000 Canadian troops took part in different campaigns, including a five-year combat mission in Kandahar. The war cost the lives of 162 Canadians — 158 soldiers, one diplomat, one journalist and two civilian contractors.
Over the 12-year mission, 2,179 injured were injured. According to an analysis by The Canadian Press, Canada's contribution cost $12 billion.
Canada's combat role ended in 2011, although the military remained to help train Afghan army and police.
Alan Chan, a Grade 12 student, remains concerned about the future of Afghanistan.
"I think NATO really shouldn't pull out too quickly because democracy without stability is pointless. … We've seen it before when the Soviet Union pulled out of Afghanistan around 1990s."
Afghan war not part of curriculum
Support for the military is high in Alberta. Just over one-quarter of Canadian casualties in Afghanistan were Edmonton-based soldiers. Despite this, the Afghan mission is not part of the Alberta curriculum. The three students CBC News spoke to believe that's a mistake.
Korobkov said the conflict came up in class, but never in detail — leaving her to look to media and her parents for information.
"I didn't understand [the conflict]. And maybe understanding it a bit more, even from a school would have helped me out quite a bit."
Ultimately, Basue said people need to hear the perspectives of young Canadians in the post-Afghan era.
"People should write off people our age just because they view us as young teenagers or inexperienced. We have learned about this conflict and we've grown up with it, so I think we can offer another perspective that perhaps other people couldn't."
With files from CBC's Andrea Huncar