UNB's Toll of War project is 'propaganda,' historian says

The University of New Brunswick’s Gregg Centre for the Study of War and Society is being criticized as propaganda for the military, according to one historian.

Milton F. Gregg Centre received $488,155 in federal funding for project to promote Victoria Cross recipients

A new project at the University of New Brunswick’s Gregg Centre for the Study of War and Society is being criticized as propaganda for the military, according to one historian.

Nicholas Tracy, a historian of defence and international relations, said the school should never have agreed to accept funding from the federal government for the “Toll of War" project.

Tracy said the project is nothing more than propaganda meant to polish up the military image that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government finds useful.

"I don't like to see the military history of Canada reduced to the hagiography of a few heroes," Tracy said.

"It's not really what we should be doing."

Tracy has worked at UNB since 1980. He says military historians should be analyzing and evaluating the place of Canada's military in the context of international events.

The federal government announced $488,155 for the project on Jan. 8. It will create a national banner campaign and produce educational material about Canada’s Victoria Cross recipients.

The “Toll of War” project will tell the stories of the valour and sacrifice of Canadians in the two World Wars, according to the federal government.

The Victoria Cross was handed out “for most conspicuous bravery or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy.”

There were 1,351 Victoria Crosses, including 98 to Canadians, handed out between 1856 and 1945.

Tracy said UNB’s Gregg Centre has researched a number of issues with federal funding that fall more in line with the role of historians such as the study of terrorism and the laws of military action.

The Milton F. Gregg Centre studies war “as a complex social phenomenon” and has a stated goal of “increasing understanding of the cause, course, and consequence of armed conflict.”

This isn't the first time the federal government has been criticized over spending on military history.

Several Canadian veterans' groups came forward last year to say they were upset that the federal government is spending millions commemorating old wars while current veterans are suffering from post-traumatic stress and other issues.

The Harper government spent more than $28 million to commemorate the War of 1812 in 2012.