Canadian Forces Code of Conduct
with examples drawn from Regimental
Much attention has been paid in the media to
assorted criminal acts perpetrated in recent years by a small number of Canadian, British
and American soldiers, in places like Somalia and Iraq.
Prospective recruits, their families, serving soldiers, and all
Canadian citizens need to understand that the Canadian Army is bound by international law,
as well as domestic law and several sets of rules and regulations governing their conduct.
The Canadian Army trains in strict accordance to the Canadian Forces Code
of Conduct. This Code, outlined below, represents the formalization of
Canadian Army policy on the humane and legal conduct of military operations as it has
evolved through the South African War, both World Wars, Korea, and other missions since
The Calgary Highlanders have always trained to
operate within the boundaries of civilized and legal conduct set out by various
international bodies. All soldiers of the Calgary Highlanders are expected to
understand the code of conduct, and to take action should they encounter situations in
which the code is being violated.
Below is a summary, as outlined by Canadian
Forces Publication "Dispatches: Lessons Learned for Soldiers, Volume 6 Number
2." This pamphlet was written by Lieutenant Colonel Watkin, Captain P Drew and
Captain R Paquin and released by the Army Lessons Learned Centre. Large tracts of
the text of this pam (which originally appeared as Canadian Forces training manual B-GJ-005-104/FP-023 produced by the Judge Advocate General) have
been reproduced verbatim below. Historical
will illustrate that these issues have been of concern to the Regiment throughout its
The Law of Armed Conflict
The Law of Armed Conflict is the body of
international law which sets out rules of behaviour in an armed conflict, sets out minimum
standards applicable to the conduct of hostilities designed to limit unnecessary human
suffering, ensures respect for human dignity, and facilitates the restoration of peace.
Canadian soldiers are not expected to know all
the details of the various treaties and international customs that make up the Law of
Armed Conflict. Canada either respects, or is a signatory to, many different
international agreements on the conduct of armed conflict, including:
The Hague Convention
The Geneva Convention
The Ottawa Convention (Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling,
Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction)
The Law of Armed Conflict protects all victims
of armed conflict, including the wounded, sick, and surrendered enemy combatants, as well
as civilians. Some of the laws respected by the Canadian Forces are the result of
long standing custom, while others have been formalized by international treaty or
All Canadian soldiers are expected to know,
understand, and observe the Law of Armed Conflict, and as a matter of policy, the CF will
apply the spirit and principles of this Law in all operations outside of Canada.
Canadian soldiers are also subject to domestic
legislation governing their conduct, including:
The Criminal Code of
The National Defence Act
The obligation to obey the Canadian Forces Code
of Conduct and the Law of Armed Conflict is a requirement under Canadian law. Violations
by Canadian Forces personnel will be dealt with regardless of which side is successful.
Canada is committed to ensuring that its forces conduct their operations in
compliance with the Law of Armed Conflict. The Code of Service Discipline applies to
CF members everywhere in the world, and there is never an exception to the obligation of a
Canadian soldier to obey Canadian law, even when confronted with an opposing force which
refuses to comply with the Law of Armed Conflict.
The Law of Armed Conflict can be more easily
remembered by breaking it down into Soldier's Rules. These rules are simple,
straightforward and easy to follow. Every member of the Canadian Forces is obligated
to know, understand, and obey them.
1) Engage Only
Opposing Forces and Military Objectives
Rule 1 is the cornerstone of the Law of
Armed Conflict. Attacking non-hostile forces or objects not useful for military
purposes is not only unlawful but also unsound from an operational point of view.
The military principles of "selection and maintenance of the aim" and
"economy of effort" are both assisted by adherence to Rule 1, as it ensures that
resources are properly used to accomplish missions.
Military Objectives - are those objects
which make an effective contribution to military action due to their nature, location,
purpose or use. To be a military objective, the destruction or neutralization of the
object must offer a definite military advantage to friendly operations.
Characteristics of military objectives will change depending on the type of mission - a
bridge may be an important military objective in time of war, but not a military objective
during a peace support operation.
Opposing Forces - are any
individuals or groups who pose a threat to friendly soldiers or the mission. In an
armed conflict, enemy forces are opposing forces regardless of whether or not they pose an
immediate threat. In peace support operations, persons (including civilians) must
usually do more than simply possess weapons before being considered "opposing
forces" and must also act in a threatening manner toward friendly soldiers or the
property they are tasked to protect.
Bear in mind that the proper application of
the Law of Armed Conflict does not prevent the use of force in the achievement of
legitimate military objectives.
In the early evening, I had
a visit from the (Dutch) postmaster, a distinguished man in a morning coat, silk hat, etc.
He explained that the Germans were concentrated in the post office which he did not
want burned. He wanted me to walk to the post office with a white flag and persuade
them to surrender peacefully.
I said "Fine, I'll tell
you what I'll do, I'll walk down the street if you walk down the street." He
said, "Oh, no."
I told him I'd much sooner
burn the post office (with our flamethrowers) than risk any Canadian lives and he left in
a bad mood. Next morning we attacked and the Germans tumbled out in a hurry to
Groningen, The Netherlands, April 1945
Accomplishing Your Mission, Use Only the Necessary Force That Causes the Least Amount of
Collateral Civilian Damage
Rule 2 refers to the legal obligation to minimize harm to
civilians and their property while completing assigned missions.
Principle of Proportionality - imposes a duty to ensure that
the collateral civilian damage caused is not excessive in relation to the concrete and
direct military advantage anticipated.
Collateral Civilian Damage - refers to any injury to
civilians or damage to civilian objects which are not part of an authorized target,
resulting from the use of force.
It is recognized that the nature of armed conflict creates
conditions in which injury will be unintentionally inflicted on civilians and their
property. All operations must be conducted in such a way that damage to
civilians and their property is minimized. This refers to both
"friendly" civilians and "hostile" civilians.
In spite of the severe
fighting...great crowds of (Dutch) civilians thronged the streets (of Groningen) - -
apparently more excited than frightened by the sound of nearby rifle and machine-gun fire.
Out of regard for these civilians, the Canadians did not shell or bomb the city,
thereby accepting the possibility of delay and additional casualties.
Official History of the
Canadian Army in the Second World War
Volume III: The Victory Campaign: The Operations in North West Europe 1944-1945
Colonel C.P. Stacey
At right, a photo taken during
the fighting in Groningen. Note the Dutch civilians in the streets.
One of our
machine gunners set up his Bren gun in a kind of bay window in the front of the
livingroom. He had the bipod of the Bren resting on a small hardwood table and he
was firing through the bay window at a German vehicle down towards the end of the
street...(The lady of the house) must have been so bewildered that she wasn't really aware
of what was going on around her. Seeing this Bren gunner in the process of ruining
her little hardwood table with his wretched Bren gun, she handed him a little cushion and
asked him to put it under the legs of the gun, which he obligingly did. Then she
handed him a cup of coffee which he graciously accepted and then continued to fire on the
German vehicle down the street. Unbelievable!
Private Frank P. Holm
Groningen, The Netherlands, April 1945
Do Not Alter Your Weapons Or Ammunition To Increase Suffering Or Use Unauthorized Weapons
Rule 3 is based on both military and humanitarian
principles. The use of weapons or ammunition that cause unnecessary suffering is
unlawful and is also contrary to the principle of war, selection and maintenance of the
Authorized Ammunition and Weapons:
All CF issued weapons are lawful. The use of only CF issued weapons and ammunition
ensures that there is no deviation from international standards. Legal belt
knives, jack knives and other such items are permitted so long as they are used only as
tools. Under no circumstances are soldiers permitted to bring on operations personal
firearms, ammunition or other personal weapons listed as restricted or prohibited by
Regular inspections ensure that only authorized weapons are
used. It is prohibited to return to Canada from operational deployments with weapons
or ammunition as "war trophies" and CF personnel attempting to return to Canada
with such items will be prosecuted under Canadian criminal law, customs regulations and
the Code of Service Discipline. These items also pose a significant risk to aircraft
and ships transporting troops. And finally, Rule 8 prohibits looting for safety
reasons as well as legal reasons.
Captured Weapons and Ammunition: may be required to be
used in certain circumstances. They may only be used if lawful weapons, and
handling/disposal of captured weapons and ammunition will be covered in detail in
operational standing orders. Generally speaking, collection, security, transport and
destruction of captured weapons and ammunition will be done by designated personnel.
Restrictions on the use of Lawful Weapons: do exist,
to prevent the use of weapons to cause unnecessary suffering. Booby traps, CS Gas,
pepper spray and land mines other than anti-personnel types are all lawful, for example,
but restricted to use in limited circumstances.
Brigadier Currie (commanding the 2nd
Canadian Brigade) noted in his diary on 15 April (1915) "Attack expected at night to
be preceded by the sending of poisonous gases to our lines..." Word of the
imminent gas attack was received with disbelief and puzzlement at Tenth Battalion
headquarters. "We didn't believe it," recalled Major Ormond.
"We couldn't imagine civilized people using it [poison gas]. After all, they
were bound by The Hague Convention."
Gallant Canadians: The
Story of the Tenth Canadian Infantry Battalion 1914-1919
Daniel G. Dancocks
Altered Weapons and Ammunition: are prohibited if the
intent is to increase suffering. "Unnecessary Suffering" is defined as the
infliction of injuries beyond what is required to achieve the military aim. The rule
is not only a moral one but it is operationally advantageous based on reciprocity of
treatment - the use of altered weapons may encourage opposing forces to do the same, or
Prohibited Weapons and Ammunition: includes bullets
designed to expand or flatten easily on contact with the human body (ie "dumdum"
or hollow point bullets), poison or poison weapons, tracer rounds other than for marking,
chemical weapons (excepting limited use of tear gar or pepper spray in peace support
missions or for crowd control) and the use of anti-personnel mines that are not manually
detonated (ie Claymore mines).
4) Treat All
Civilians Humanely And Respect Civilian Property
Civilians who do not take part in hostilities must not be
targeted. They should also be respected and treated humanely in all circumstances.
Civilians should be treated the way that you would like your own family to
be treated in the same circumstances.
of Treatment: Military operations in foreign lands expose Canadian soldiers to
civilian populations that are markedly different from our own. However different or
unusual a foreign land may appear, these civilians are, in all circumstances, entitled to
respect for their persons and property, their honour, their family rights, their religious
convictions and practices, and their manners and customs.
In daily interaction with civilian population, they must at
all times be humanely treated and not subjected to acts of violence, threats or insults.
Women and children, in particular, must not be subjected to rape, enforced
prostitution and any form of indecent assault. All civilians must be treated with
the same consideration and without any adverse distinction based in particular on race,
religion or political opinion.
During my time with the
Calgary Highlanders in action, I saw no atrocities or physical mistreatment of prisoners
of war or civilians by Canadians. The Canadian Army fought the German Army - - not
the civilian population, and played an important part in the defeat of the Nazi war
machine....Although I had been afraid most of the time and had endured many difficult
periods, I came through relatively unharmed except for my nerves, and was glad to have had
the experience. I was proud of the accomplishments of the Canadian Army at this
crucial time in history and was proud to have been a Canadian soldier.
Private Frank P. Holm
September 1944-April 1945
Detention of Civilians: may on occasion
be necessary as a result of actions on their part placing them in the category of
"opposing forces." For example, looters or other common criminals may need
to be detained in order to protect military installations. In
certain circumstances, civilians who interfere with and prevent the CF from accomplishing
the mission may also be detained when authorized by the ROE. These civilians become
"detainees" and as such, shall be treated at least as well as any other detained
persons (as under Rule 6)
Compliance with rule 4 is one important
difference between a disciplined professional force and a band of marauders. Respect for
the property rights of civilians, including civilians in the territory of the opposing
force, requires discipline. Disobeying this rule could turn a civilian population against
friendly forces, jeopardize entire missions and even prolong conflicts. For that
reason, every effort must be made to avoid alienating civilian populations. Reckless
destruction of civilian property and disregard for personal ownership rights will place
the overall military mission at risk as well as damage the reputation of Canada and its
soldiers. Military necessity may sometimes require the destruction of some civilian
property in order to conduct operations. This destruction should not be done needlessly.
The wanton destruction, theft or confiscation of civilian property is prohibited and is an
offence under the Code of Service Discipline.
The CF may purchase or requisition property and
services from the local population but only for the use of our forces. Requisitioned
material should always be paid for in cash, or a receipt should be provided which then
should be honoured as soon as possible. Where requisitioning is authorized, appropriate
procedures will be established and published.
5) Do Not Attack
Those Who Surrender. Disarm and Detain Them.
During armed conflict opposing
forces who surrender have the status of Prisoners of War (PWs) while persons detained
during peace support operations are not usually considered PWs. Such detained persons are
known as "detainees." The reason for the distinction is that Canada is not
normally a party to an armed conflict when taking part in a peace support operation.
Those who surrender and who are no
longer a threat must be protected and treated humanely. The "denial of quarter"
is prohibited. In other words, it is unlawful to refuse to accept someone’s surrender
or to order that no PWs or detainees will be taken. It is also illegal as well as
operationally unsound to make threats to opposing forces that no PWs or detainees will be
Anyone who wishes to surrender must clearly
show an intention to do so (for example, hands up, throwing away his weapon, or showing a
white flag). Remember that the showing of a white flag is not necessarily an expression of
intent to surrender. Furthermore it is not necessarily applicable to all opposing forces
in an area. The white flag can also mean that opposing forces wish to temporarily cease
hostilities to talk or negotiate.
Those who wish to surrender should be
dealt with cautiously until they are disarmed and are no longer a threat.
Disarming includes the search for and the taking away
of equipment and documents of military value (for example, weapons, ammunition, maps,
orders, code books, etc.). The following material must remain with the PW or detainee:
a. identification documents/discs;
b. clothing, items for personal use, or items used for
c. items of personal protection (i.e., helmet, gas
mask, flak jacket, etc.).
The evacuation of PWs or detainees should be organized
and begin as rapidly as the tactical situation permits. While awaiting evacuation, they
a. not be unnecessarily exposed to combat danger,
b. not be forced to engage in activities having a
military character or purpose,
c. be protected against acts of violence, insults or
d. be given any immediate first aid or medical
In recent years the nature of armed conflict as well as
the nature of peace support operations have changed and those personnel opposing CF
members will not always be in uniform, or even be members of an organized armed group.
Regardless of whether your captive wears a uniform or civilian clothes the obligation to
such person remains the same. In the case of doubt about the legal status of persons that
you detain, those persons shall be treated like any other detained person and evacuated.
Restraint devices (such as handcuffs, shackles,
flex-cuffs, tie-wraps, etc.) will only be used on a case by case basis where individual
PWs or detainees represent an immediate threat. Those restraints will be removed as soon
as the individual no longer poses a threat to security. In exceptional circumstances a PW
or a detainee may be blindfolded for security purposes. However, in nearly all cases the
nature of the operation and the lack of an opportunity to escape will mean there is no
requirement to even consider the use of a blindfold. The Law of Armed Conflict permits the
use of force to prevent the escape of PWs. In the case of detainees, however, force may
only be used to stop an escape where it is authorized in the operation's Rules of
Company Sergeant Major Harold Omar
"Swede" Larson, holder of the Military Cross (an exceptionally rare award for a
non-commissioned officer), goes through the pockets of surrendered German soldiers near
Doetinchem, 1 April 1945. Prisoners must be permitted to retain basic survival gear,
including winter coats like those shown here, and may also include basic items such as
water bottles and helmets. However, lethal force may also be used to prevent their escape.
At right, another Calgary Highlander covers the prisoners with a Bren light machine
Photo - Public
Archives of Canada PA 131699 (Lieutenant M.M. Dean)
6) Treat All
Detained Persons Humanely In Accordance With The Standard Set by the Third Geneva
Convention. Any Form of Abuse, Including Torture, is Prohibited.
Rule 6 deals with the treatment of
anyone detained by CF personnel in the course of an operation. At the tactical level, the
legal status of those who are detained does not matter. All persons held by CF personnel
without their consent, both PWs and detainees, shall be treated in accordance with the
standard set by the Third Geneva Convention on the Treatment of Prisoners of War.
It is a legal obligation for PWs to be treated in
accordance with the Third Convention. The CF will also apply the Third Convention to
detainees because it represents a high level of protection for those persons. From an
operational perspective it is also advantageous in that CF personnel need only be trained
to one set of rules for the treatment of persons held under their control.
The primary reasons for which members of the CF may be
called upon to detain individuals in the course of an operation are to prevent their
further participation in a conflict or, when authorized, to prevent them from interfering
with the military mission. The reason for captivity is never related to revenge or
punishment. The concept of humane treatment toward those under your control and the
standard of treatment which applies to all detained persons, without adverse distinction
based on race, nationality, sex, religious belief or political opinion, is a long standing
Over and above existing individual responsibilities,
any person detained by CF members becomes the responsibility of Canada for the treatment
given to them from the time of capture until their final release. Detained persons will be
handed over to the military police as soon as possible. Their transfer to local
authorities or evacuation through the appropriate channel, depending on the circumstances,
shall be organized and start as rapidly as the tactical situation permits.
Humane treatment includes not only the proper provision
of the necessities of life but also the type of treatment provided to detained persons.
PWs and detainees must at all times be protected against insults and public curiosity.
Detained persons shall be treated with all due regard to their gender. Searches will be
conducted by persons of the same sex unless, in exceptional circumstances, they have to be
conducted by a member of the opposite sex. Searches conducted by members of the opposite
sex will be carried out in a respectful manner. PWs and detainees will be allowed to
retain all personal effects and articles, as well as their metal helmets, gas masks,
feeding utensils and articles of personal protection. Their weapons, such as other
military equipment, military documents can be removed. Only an officer may order the
removal of sums of money and valuables for safekeeping. If such action is taken, a receipt
must be issued and the details recorded in a special register.
In accordance with the United Nations Convention
Against Torture, Canada has the obligation to set out in the Code of Conduct the
prohibition against any form of torture. It is a service and a criminal offence to torture
a PW or detained person. Any form of physical or psychological abuse is prohibited. In
addition, following the Third Geneva Convention, all PWs must be protected against acts of
violence, insults or intimidation. By national direction, all detainees must also be
protected against acts of violence, insults or intimidation.
Food and water: will be provided as soon
as is feasible and will not be arbitrarily or unreasonably withheld. For example, if CF
personnel are scheduled to eat at a certain time, PWs and detainees will be allowed to eat
at that time as well. More timely provision of food and water may be medically necessary
due to climatic conditions. Detained persons will be provided shelter from both the
elements and hostile action to the same extent as is available to CF personnel. For the
provision of food, water and shelter, the idea is not to treat PWs or detainees better
than CF members but to treat them at least as well.
Protection and Medical Care: Detained persons
must be protected from the effect of hostilities. In the presence of an NBC threat for
example, PWs and detainees must be allowed to use their protective gear. If they
don’t have any, they should be provided with the necessary gear where this is
practically possible. Similarly, if there is a risk of indirect fire and shelling,
detained persons will be allowed to use their protective gear. Again if they don’t
have any, they should be provided with the necessary gear where this is practically
Every PW and detainee should be given a medical
examination as soon as practicable after capture and the condition of each person shall be
recorded. All detained persons shall be afforded the necessary medical care.
A patrol of scouts was
sent out and contacted a hospital filled with German wounded being cared for by their own
staff. A guard was laid on to protect them from their (Dutch) civilian tormentors. It was
considered too bad that they could not observe the Geneva Convention as quickly as they
appealed to it.
Calgary Highlanders War
Groningen, The Netherlands, 17 April 1945
Questioning and Interrogation: Any PW or
detainee who is questioned need only give his or her full name and rank, date of birth,
and service number or equivalent information. That information is necessary in order to
properly administer the detained person. If a PW or detainee refuses to provide this
information, no action will be taken beyond making note of the refusal. At this stage CF
members will not interrogate or ask for any information beyond the above-mentioned
The interrogation or debriefing of detainees may only
be conducted by qualified personnel such as intelligence personnel in accordance with the
relevant UN, coalition or national direction. Where interrogation or debriefing is
conducted by qualified and authorized personnel, no physical or mental torture, or any
other form of coercion, shall be inflicted on PWs or detainees to force them to provide
information of any kind. Detained persons who refuse to answer shall not be threatened,
insulted or exposed to unpleasant or ill-treatment of any kind.
Reprisals will not be taken against PWs or
detainees. Similarly, they will not be used as "human shields" to protect
military objectives or cover military operations. CF personnel will treat detained persons
properly regardless of how CF personnel may have been treated while in the hands of
Next morning I had
reason...to visit the signals personnel at Battalion HQ. They were on the ground
floor of a small building just down the street (in Goes) not too far away. As I
entered the main door I saw only one person and this startled me. It was a German
soldier - - green uniform, jackboots, field cap, no weapons, no equipment - - just sitting
halfway up the steps leading to the second floor, with a bored smile on his face....(He)
saw that I was taken aback (and) said: "Don't worry; they know I'm here" in
English with a slow southern American drawl....(He) was born in the United States of
German parents. They lived in Georgia...(and) had travelled to Germany...for a visit
just before the war broke out and he couldn't get back. He was drafted into the
German Wehrmacht and now he had found the opportunity to give himself up to the Canadians.
Private Frank P. Holm
Collect All the Wounded and Sick and Provide them with the Treatment Required by their
Condition, whether Friend or Foe.
All the wounded and sick, whether
friend or foe, shall be respected and protected. In all circumstances they shall be
treated humanely and shall receive, to the fullest extent practicable and with the least
possible delay, the medical care and attention required by their condition. There shall be
no distinction among them based on any grounds other than medical ones.
Members of opposing forces who have been rendered
unconscious or are otherwise incapacitated by wounds or sickness, and therefore are
incapable of defending themselves shall not be made the object of attack provided that
they abstain from any hostile act. They shall be treated as PWs or detainees as
appropriate, but they will be evacuated through the medical services to allow for proper
medical treatment. Guards may have to be provided while such detained persons undergo
Following an engagement, Canadian soldiers have an
obligation, without delay, to take all possible measures to search for and collect the
wounded and sick from all sides, opposing forces or not, as well as civilians. It is
understood however that this obligation only comes into play once the area has been
secured. This includes the obligation to protect them against theft and ill-treatment and
to ensure their adequate care. There is also an obligation to search for, protect and pay
proper respect for the dead. Whenever circumstances permit, a suspension of fire shall be
arranged or local arrangements made to permit the removal of the sick, wounded and dead,
and the exchange and transport of the wounded and sick.
Only medical reasons will determine the priority of
treatment. Therefore, there will be circumstances where a member of opposing forces will
have to be treated before a Canadian soldier. Such professional behaviour increases the
likelihood that wounded CF personnel in the hands of the opposing forces will be treated
as quickly as possible and as their medical condition requires. Moreover, the sick and
wounded who abstain from hostile acts are no longer opposing forces and are entitled to
protection. Where it is necessary to abandon wounded and sick personnel to opposing forces
there is a requirement, as far as military considerations permit, to leave with them
medical personnel to provide appropriate care.
....back at the Prisoner
of War cage, I saw something which impressed me. A soldier from the South
Saskatchewan Regiment was standing with his arm over the shoulder of a German prisoner,
talking to (a Military Policeman) in charge of the cage. It seems that the German
was a stretcher bearer who had gone out into no-man's-land to tend to (a South
Saskatchewan Regiment) officer who had been wounded. He took him to the Canadian
side but then was taken prisoner. The SSR soldier was pleading with the MP to allow
the German to go back to his unit... It was inspiring to see men on both sides of the
conflict showing compassion for one another instead of hate.
Private Frank P.
The burial or cremation of the dead
should be carried out individually as far as circumstances permit. Burial must be preceded
by a careful examination, and if possible, by a medical examination of the bodies in order
to confirm death, establish identity and make appropriate reports. One half of the double
identity disc, or the identity disc itself if it is a single disc, should remain with the
body. Bodies must not be cremated except for imperative reasons of hygiene or because of
the religion of the deceased. Reasons for cremation must be recorded. The dead shall be
honourably interred, and if possible accorded the rites of the religion to which the
8) Looting is
The taking of personal war trophies is prohibited.
Battlefields and destroyed civilian areas offer attractive objects for the
curiosity seeker. There is a significant risk that such property may be
booby-trapped. No matter how tempting such objects may be, the taking of souvenirs
is prohibited. The personal property of sick and wounded, detained persons, and the
dead shall not be taken. Looting is theft. Not only is looting illegal, but
even an isolated act of theft may impede a mission by turning local populace against
Property belonging to
Opposing Forces may, in some circumstances, be permitted to be seized and used. Such
use must be properly authorized by the chain of command, and such use may never be for the
personal benefit of individual Canadian Forces personnel.
Now, "looting" a
prisoner usually meant taking his wrist watch as a trophy. It was forbidden by the
King's Regulations of Canada...I was in the process of checking the little garden behind
the house that company headquarters was occupying at this time....(A Dutch civilian)
beckoned to me...I saw that she was too frightened and upset to speak but as I approached
she pointed to a German soldier lying on the garden walkway leading to her back
door. I checked him and found he was limp and lifeless but still warm. He was
an officer. I...checked his billfold. From it I took a few reichsmarks, which
I didn't think he would be able to spend anyway. I didn't feel comfortable
afterwards about what I had done...there is no use glossing over the fact I had looted a
dead German. It was the first (and last) time I had done that and I had been in the
front lines for six and a half months at this point.
Private Frank P. Holm
Groningen, The Netherlands, April 1945
9) Respect All
Cultural Objects (Museums, Monuments, etc.) and Places of Worship
Peace becomes more difficult to secure when a people's
religion or culture is not respected. As a general rule, buildings and property
dedicated to cultural or religious purposes must not be attacked. We must do
our best to ensure that these buildings, or their contents, are not destroyed, damaged or
stolen. The destruction, desecration, or interference with, cultural and
religious objects and places of worship can only serve to adversely affect friendly forces
and possibly prolong any conflict. Failure to honour this rule often results in
retaliation in kind.
Religious and Cultural
Objects - are usually obvious to identify. Churches, mosques, synagogues,
cemeteries, monasteries, temples and other places of religious significance are protected.
Cultural objects are not as obvious to identify, and represent those things of
great importance to the cultural heritage of a people, such as monuments, archaeological
sites, archives, buildings, manuscripts, works of art, large libraries, etc. These
objects are protected.
Disinguishing Cultural and Religious Objects - may be
done through use of internationally recognized signs, as illustrated below. Not all
cultural or religious property will be marked in areas of conflict - and all such property
must be respected whether signed or not.
Some cultural and religious locatons may be marked with a
distinctive blue and white sign as illustrated at left.
Other sites which should not be made targets -
may also be marked by internationally recognized signs as illustrated below. Not all
such sites will be marked in areas of conflict - and all such property must be respected
whether signed or not.
Civilian protection installations such as bomb shelters or
fire halls may be marked with a blue triangle symbol on a red square.
Neutral, safety or hospital zones may be marked with a
diagonal red stripe on a white square.
Installations which, if damaged, could release dangerous
forces such as a dam, dyke or nuclear electrical generating station, may be marked with
three red circles.
Internment or refugee camps may also be marked with
Extent of Protection - if cultural or
religious property is used for military purposes, it loses its protection from the
opposing forces under the Law of Armed Conflict. If an opposing force uses such a
site for military purposes, it becomes a legitimate military target. The Principle
of Proportionality discussed above applies with particular importance in this case.
Where possible, enemy forces must be warned against using cultural or religious sites for
military purposes before an attack; if the opposing force persists, attacks by CF
personnel must be done so as to minimize risk to those personnel while at the same time
using the minimum force necessary to accomplish the mission.
In 1936, the Vimy Memorial was
unveiled in France (above left), on ground granted by France to Canada "in
perpetuity." The Tenth Battalion, forerunners of the Calgary Highlanders,
participated in the battle to seize the Ridge in April 1917. The monument itself
towers over the Douai Plain, and some of the trenches and tunnels occupied by the
Canadians at the start of the battle have been preserved.
The Third Reich was notorious for plundering cultural
artifacts and destroying enemy civilian property (a notable example being the railway
carriage in which the Germans signed the terms of surrender in November 1918). In
June 1940, Adolf Hitler himself toured the Canadian Memorial at Vimy Ridge (he is pictured
at extreme left of the upper right photo, with a preserved Canadian trench in the
foreground), and though in 1944 he would order the destruction of the City of Paris
without qualm, in 1940 he spared the Canadian Vimy Memorial.
at left - National Archives of Canada PA 183544
Photo at right - from After the Battle Magazine, Number 109
10) Respect All
Persons and Objects Bearing the Red Cross/Red Crescent and Other Recognized Symbols of
International law provides special protection to personnel
and facilities displaying the Red Cross or the Red Crescent. Medical
personnel and their medical facilities/buildings and transport displaying these
distinctive emblems must not be attacked. Recognizing and respecting these
distinctive emblems enhances the likelihood that forces in opposition to CF personnel will
also respect our own personnel and facilities, including the sick and wounded.
The Red Cross is a protected symbol that is
often misunderstood. According to the Red Cross Society of Canada, the symbol does
not symbolize only medical personnel/facilities but is in fact the international symbol
for "Don't Shoot." It is illegal to use the Red Cross symbol in commercial
products, including first aid kits, as it is felt that overuse of this symbol will
diminish its importance in areas of conflict where its meaning needs to be crystal clear.
Permanent Medical Personnel: include doctors, nurses,
and medical assistants exclusively engaged in the collection, transport or treatment of
the sick and wounded. Also included are those who are engaged exclusively in the
prevention of disease, staff engaged exclusively in the administration of medical units
and establishments, and chaplains of the armed forces. All permanent medical
personnel must wear an armband displaying the Red Cross/Red Crescent and carry an
appropriate identity card distinguishing them as such. Medical personnel will under
no circumstance be attacked. If captured, permanent medical personnel and chaplains,
although detained, will continue to care for their sick and wounded. If there is no
such medical requirement, they are to be released and returned to their own forces.
Temporary Medical Personnel: include soldiers employed
on a part time basis, such as hospital orderlies or temporary stretcher-bearers used to
collect, transport and care for the sick and wounded. Temporary medical personnel
are not to be attacked. They are distinguished by the use of smaller armbands and
emblems; if captured they may be employed in medical duties, but they do not have to be
released to their own side if there is no requirement for their medical services.
About October 9th (1944), a
German infantryman called for help across the street (in Hoogerheide).... In the basement
with us were a handful of his buddies, who totally fatigued and depressed said that they
are not going out there again. Then to my horror, my fellow artillery observer, Friedel
Steinmeier, said: "OK, then I (will) get him!" And he did! Except for his
helmet, he took all his gear off and calmly walked across the open field straight to the
wounded man, loaded him on his back and carried him to safety. - I was very impressed that
the Canadians held their fire. (A few days later) I returned the favor.
On October 13, the Canadians
were pounding us in preparations for their attack. (The same) house was shot into rubble,
leaving only the chimney. However, we stuck it out in the cellar. At dusk it was my turn
to go up on watch. With a field telephone and binoculars, I climbed up the chimney and saw
what seemed to be several officers looking over this bunker with binoculars and having
maps before them. I called (whispered) for a single high velocity artillery round. (A
straight shot that gives nobody time to duck). It was right on target and I saw a steel
helmet flying like a Frisbee. A few minutes later a van came and men ran towards the
bunker. It was getting dark and I couldn’t tell who they were, but I assumed they
were medics and thus I refrained from further shelling of the area.
German Artillery soldier
Hoogerheide, The Netherlands, October 1944
Arming of Medical Personnel: Perhaps the largest
misconception surrounding medical personnel is that they are not permitted to carry
weapons. Under international law, medical personnel may be armed with side arms, and
are permitted to use them in the defence of themselves and the sick and wounded under
their care. Pickets or sentries made up of non-medical personnel may also be
equipped with small arms and used without adversely affecting the protected status of the
medical establishment or unit.
Medical Units and Establishments: may consist of fixed
or mobile units or establishments and are not to be attacked. Protection provided to
medical establishments and units shall only cease if they are used for purposes outside
their humanitarian duties, and even then, only after due warning and a reasonable amount
of time elapsing without the warning being heeded. Medical units and establishments
should be cited so that attacks on legitimate military targets will not endanger them.
The Red Cross/Red Crescent should only be used on medical units or establishments
entitled to protection under the Geneva Convention.
Medical Transport: Opposing forces' transports for the
wounded and sick, or of medical equipment, shall not be targetted once identified as such
and are protected in the same manner as mobile medical units. If captured, the
wounded and sick in the transports will be properly cared for. Ambulances and other
vehicles bearing the Red Cross emblem must not be used to transport ammunition or weapons
nor shall they be used to convey troops across the battlefield.
International Committee of the Red Cross: is an
independent humanitarian institution first formed in 1863 that has a special role under
the Law of Armed Conflict. The ICRC acts as a netural intermediary and endeavours,
on its own initiative, to bring protection and assistance to the victims of armed
conflict. At times, this may include caring for the wounded and sick.
Second World War Red Cross Parcel. Public Archives of
So far as they could, ...Canadian
prisoners subsisted on parcels sent from home and from the Red Cross. Thanks to the
neutral nations, postal services connected the belligerents. In 1914, the first
public reports of suffering in the German (prisoner of war) camps initiated a flow of food
parcels that continued throughout the war. Begun as a typically private response to
need, by 1916 it had developed into an official Red Cross function...British medical
authorities designed four standard, nutritionally balanced packages, and the Red Cross
undertook to deliver three ten-pound parcels to each prisoner every two weeks. Each
month, a prisoner received a half-pound tin of tobacco and 250 cigarettes; every six
months he got a supply of clothing, and annually a new overcoat. A British
woman...organized bakeries in Switzerland and later in Denmark to deliver loaves of white
bread to British and Canadian prisoners....Almost every prisoner recognized that the
parcels were life-savers.
When Your Number's Up: The Canadian Soldier in the First World
Organizations: (NGOs) are also dedicated to alleviating the suffering of the victims
of armed conflict. Additionally, UN organizations as well as local civilians may be
engaged in the collection and care of the sick and wounded, under the direction of local
military authorities. NGOs do not benefit from international legal protection,
nonetheless, their work is to be respected.
Improper Use of the
Distinctive Emblems and Perfidy: False and improper use of the Red Cross/Red Crescent
is prohibited. This includes such acts as using ambulances to move troops or
ammunition. Committing a hostile act under the cover of the protection
provided by the distinctive emblems would constitute perfidy. Perfidy is a war
crime. The use of camouflage and other deceptions are considered legitimate
ruses. The camouflage of medical facilities is not prohibited, however, it does
increase the risk that the facility may not be recognized as a medical installation.
11) Report and
Take Appropriate Steps to Stop Breaches of the Law of Armed Conflict and these Rules.
Disobedience of the Law of Armed Conflict is a Crime.
It is Canadian Forces policy to respect and abide by the Law
of Armed Conflict in all circumstances. To meet this commitment, every CF member
must know and understand, as a minimum, the basic principles of the Law of Armed Conflict.
It is of the utmost importance that a breach of any provision of the Law of
Armed Conflict or the Code of Conduct be reported without delay.
Superior Orders: and obedience to them are the basis of
military effectiveness. All orders received from superiors should be lawful,
straightforward and require little clarification. If, however, a Canadian soldier
receives an order from a superior that they believe to be questionable, their first step
is to seek clarification. If after doing so the order still appears to be
questionable, in accordance with military regulation, the order should still be obeyed unless
that order is manifestly unlawful.
Manifestly Unlawful Orders: are defined as those which
shock the conscience of every reasonable, right-thinking person. Every member of the
Canadian Forces, regardless of rank or position, has an obligation to disobey a manifestly
An order which contradicts the Law of Armed Conflict or the
Code of Conduct is unlawful. For example, mistreating someone who has surrendered,
beating a detainee, moving ammunition in an ambulance are all unlawful. It is
recognized that the lower one is in rank, the more difficult it will be to question
orders. Remember that a soldier charged with carrying out a manifestly unlawful
order can not use as a defence the claim that they were only following orders.
This is why leaders have an obligation to provide clear, lawful commands.
The issuance of a manifestly unlawful order is a crime in itself.
Leadership and Discipline: Good leaders do not
issue manifestly unlawful commands; they give clear orders that will not be misunderstood.
Disciplined soldiers do not commit war crimes or breach the Law of Armed Conflict.
They understand the nature of a lawful command and are conscious that they must
carry out their orders in a manner consistent with the law and the goal of their overall
It might appear that a momentary advantage may be gained from
a breach of the Law of Armed Conflict or the Code of Conduct. However, experience
has shown that even a momentary lapse in duty may dishonour Canada and also adversely
affect the accomplishment of the overall mission.
Breach of the Law of Armed Conflict or the Code of Conduct:
must be stopped, if possible, or reported once it has occurred. If any CF member
feels the Law of Armed Conflict or these 11 rules are being breached, they must take the
appropriate steps to stop the illegal action. If not in a position to stop the
breach, the soldier shall report to the nearest military authority that can take
appropriate action. It is recognized this may be difficult, especially for junior
ranking soldiers, however, there is always a way to report a breach, either to their own
superiors in the chain of command, to the military police, a chaplain, a legal officer, or
any other person in authority. Any attempt to cover up a breach of the Law
of Armed Conflict or these rules is in itself an offence under the Code of Service
Discipline. Experience has shown that isolated breaches committed by a few
members of the CF, even a momentary lapse of one's duty, can dishonour the entire nation
and adversely affect the accomplishment of the overall mission.
While the Canadian Forces Code of Conduct and
the Law of Armed Conflict are relatively new, they are really formalizations of standards
that have been officially and unofficially practiced by the Regiment since its inception.
The historical examples above will show that The Calgary Highlanders have
faithfully served Canada with honour, and that the values and ideals that guided the
writing of the 11 Soldier's Rules have always been the cornerstones of professional
soldiers in the Canadian Army. As can also be seen, when one side commits to high
standards of conduct, it encourages the "enemy" or opposing forces to also
consider adopting similar standards.
The use of lethal force is an awesome
responsibility, and the Canadian Armed Forces is the only institution in Canada with
permission to use it in the normal course of its duties. That responsibility is not
taken lightly. With extreme responsibility often comes dire stress; this stress is
relieved through the use of clear guidelines such as the 11 Soldier's Rules. The
very rare incidence of unfortunate episodes of breaches of these rules, in not only allied
armies but also our own Canadian Army, must be seen as just that - anomalies in an overall
picture of professional training and conduct that has spanned a century of overseas
missions in both peace and war.
The stresses in which members of the Regiment
have served since 1914 are impossible to relate via the printed word. The final
quote by a well respected officer of the Regiment stands as testimony to the types of
decisions that have to be made in war, and are a grim reminder that the survivors must
live with the consequences of their actions.
Ahead of us, a German was
running away and I decided to let him go. I didn't want to shoot the poor devil but
then he turned back and picked something up. I thought that it must be pretty
valuable and that if he was that serious about it, we probably needed it more than he did.
I gave him the works (with a tank mounted machine gun) and told the tank commander
to stop. In the German's hand was a tin can with a swastika on it, used to collect
coins for the war effort. And that had cost him his life!
Captain Mark Tennant
Belgium, September 1944