Until early 2006, Canadian military forces had incurred eight deaths in Afghanistan. During 2006 there were 35 Canadian military fatalities, and approximately 30 deaths again in each of the three subsequent years. In 2006, Canadians elected a conservative government led by Stephen Harper which decided that flags across the country would no longer be lowered to half mast for every Afghan military fatality.
The move was controversial, and was explained by the then Canadian Defence Minister (himself a retired general with 30 years Army service) as a return to the tradition of previous wars where soldiers were commemorated on Remembrance Day. A national editorial at the time captured best the reasons why Canada should not grind to a halt every time a soldier died in Afghanistan:
The four Canadian men who gave their lives for Canadian security and Afghan freedom on Saturday should be mourned as heroes. But as the inheritors of a proud and stoic Canadian military tradition, they would not have wanted their deaths to be an occasion for grief on such a scale that it undermines their comrades’ mission. Once Parliament — and, by extension, the nation — begins treating death in the field as something extraordinary and unexpected, we will have tacitly embraced the myth that our mission in Afghanistan will be peaceful and bloodless.