Michelle Lang- Canadian Journalist, Jan 31, 1975-Dec 30, 2009
Lest We Forget
Michelle Justine Lang, (January 31, 1975-December 30, 2009) journalist had ties to Saskatchewan, holding a position in Moose Jaw at the Moose Jaw Times Herald. She followed by an agricultural breaking news for the Regina Leader-Post, as her career took her to Regina.
Throughout her formative years in journalism she embraced dedication, tenacity, and enthusiasm.
Graduating from Simon Fraser University, her first journalism position was out of Prince George, British Columbia at the Prince George Free Press. Staying on at the Cariboo Press community newspaper, she was honoured as outstanding junior reporter in 1999.
Her final posting was with The Calgary Herald, Postmedia News.
Her unique interviewing style placed others at ease, enhancing her investigative reporting abilities.
National Newspaper Award was conferred upon Lang in 2008 for outstanding journalism.
It was soon to follow, that in 2009 she traveled to Kandahar to report first hand on the efforts of the Canadian military seeking to improve life for the Afghan people. On December 11, 2009, Lang set down at the NATO military base at Kandahar Airfield for a six week assignment with Canwest News Service (later Postmedia News) which was cut short in her third week abroad.
It was here that she lived on the Kandahar Airfield base in a tent, and she was free to go off base accompanying the soldiers doing their manoeuvres.
“Prior to her leaving she asked me what I wanted to read, and I said I wanted to read about the good stuff that they’re doing over there. She died trying to get those types of stories,” reminisced her fiancé, Michael Louie.
Canwest, editor Randy Newell spoke of Lang’s desire to follow up on her experience as a medical reporter in Calgary, and report on hospital care during her visit to Kandahar.
Wednesday morning, December 30, Lang boarded a helicopter and flew to the Kandahar Military-Civilian base, leaving the comparative safety of the airfield base behind.
Lang, wearing both helmet and body armour traveled along with nine soldiers in the Dand District Centre, Kandahar District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan aboard a Light Armored Vehicle (LAV-3) as part of the Stabilization Company A convoy.
The Dand District Centre construction project was one of two major initiatives undertaken in December of 2009 by the Canadians following a suicide bombing by two Taliban insurgents in March of 2009.
Lieutenant Colonel Roch Pelletier, chief of operations for the Canadian brigade in Kandahar reported that the 12 ton vehicle was flipped completely over, and flung off the road by the homemade explosive device, also called an improvised explosive device (IED), set under the road dubbed Route Molson Ice.
Lang, and four Canadian soldiers lost their lives along this quiet dirt road about four kilometers outside of Kandahar City at about 4:00 p.m. Private Garrett Chidley, Corporal Zachery McCormack, Sergeant George Miok, Sergeant Kirk Taylor lost their lives that fateful Wednesday.
The other four Canadian soldiers sustained injuries in the blast along with their Afghan interpreter and a civilian. Corporal Bradly Darren Quast required a number of surgeries to mend injuries to his leg and foot.
The Kandahar City-based Provincial Reconstruction Team was on its second routine patrol when the second vehicle exploded. They were reportedly heading to the Hosi Aziz village at 16:00 to meet with local residents regarding further projects.
“They look for quick-fix projects or longer term projects to (give jobs to) those who could be possible insurgents — fighting age males, said Lieutenant-Colonel Pelletier, “It gives them a reason to earn money and that is better than working for the insurgents planting IEDs. At the same time it improves their quality of life. They often work on irrigation canals, wells, schools, mosques.”.
Lang, embedded with embedded with Joint Task Force Afghanistan (JTF-Afg), interviewed civilians, and soldiers in her twenty days abroad focusing on development and reconstruction of cities and rural villages. Federal cabinet minister Gary Lunn and Canada’s chief of defence staff, General Walter Natynczyk also met with Lang over the Christmas season.
Michelle Lang’s online blog headlines of her time at Kandahar:
- Dec. 28 – Civilians flock to Kandahar base for experience, higher pay
- Dec. 26 – Top general optimistic despite ‘rough year’ in Afghanistan
- Dec. 25 – Married soldiers spend first Christmas together in Afghanistan
- Dec. 25 – Christmas presents give soldiers a taste of home
- Dec. 24 – Slain soldier remembered for passion, leadership
- Dec. 24 – Victoria-born soldier 134th to die in Afghanistan
- Dec. 22 – Taliban will be marginalized by 2011: Top Canadian general
- Dec. 21 – Bomb-sniffing dogs a key part of Afghan military team
- Dec. 18 – Canadian-supported Afghan army takes Panjwaii area
- Dec. 18 – Prison official sees no evidence of Afghan detainee abuse
Lang, the first Canadian journalist killed during the Afghan conflict received military honours at a ramp ceremony on January 1, 2010.
I believe the Canadian Forces did it to recognize the people who take the same risks, who are here for the right reasons . . . who are here to learn more and help,” spake Adam Sweet, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade officer with Canada’s Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), “She was a real sweetheart. When you talked to her you felt good. Even if you didn’t have the answer she wanted, she’d just laugh. She was very easygoing.
The ramp ceremony was followed by a repatriation ceremony in Trenton at the Canadian Forces Base there.
Lang answered the call to duty and although not donned in uniform is engraved with honour on a Saskatchewan plaque remembering fourteen soldiers who fell in Afghanistan as part of the Canadian military mission.
The Afghanistan Plaque carries the names of those with ties to Saskatchewan, honouring,
- Corporal Jordan Anderson
- Corporal James Hayward Arnal
- Corporal Cole Barsch
- Lieutenant Justin Boyes
- Corporal David Braun
- Captain Nichola Goddard
- Corporal Shane Keating
- Corporal Bryce Keller
- Michelle Lang
- Sergeant Darby Morin
- Lieutenant Andrew Nutall
- Master Corporal Josh Roberts
- Sergeant Prescott (Scott) Shipway
- Corporal Dustin Waden
- Master Corporal Jeffrey Walsh
The Joint Task Force Cenotaph erected in 2006 paid tribute to the soldiers at Kandahar Field. The marble cenotaph was shipped to Ottawa November 10, 2011. This memorial honoured 149 fallen Canadian Forces soldiers, Lang, civilian Marc Cyr, and Foreign Affairs official Glyn Berry.
Their memories were also preserved upon the Afghanistan Repatriation Memorial astride the Bay of Quinte in Bain Park near the largest Canadian Forces Base, Trenton was unveiled Saturday November 10, 2012.
Canada’s price in the Afghanistan mission took the lives of 158 armed forces personnel, one diplomat, two aid workers along with Lang. Even though Canada has withdrawn from combat operations in Kandahar, Canada is still active in training Afghan military and police forces for another two years involving 900 soldiers.
The Saskatchewan War Memorial on the Legislative grounds, west of the Provincial Legislature Buildings on Memorial Way, Regina, Saskatchewan, honours over 10,000 Canadian Forces personnel who offered the ultimate sacrifice in wartime and peacetime missions.
Art and Sandra Lang, her parents, attended the unveiling ceremony in Regina, Saskatchewan on Saturday, October 23, 2010.
Along with her parents, her immediate family includes her brother Cameron Lang, and his fiancee Sandra Benavide, and many relatives who mourn their loss. Lang was engaged to Louie from Calgary, Alberta with a proposed marriage date of July 3, 2010.
The Michelle Lang Fellowship, created posthumously in her honour, provides a rookie journalist with six months employment at Postmedia News, Ottawa, and six months at The Calgary Herald. The experience provides networking and first hand journalism orientation facilitating confidence and success for a rewarding career in journalism.
In the preceding decade, over 500 journalists have been killed reported the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression. In 2008, Melissa Fung, a CBC reporter was held kidnapped by Afghn rebels. In Afghanistan, three journalists had been previously injured.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) created a listing online comemmorating over close to 950 journalists killed in action since 1992 providing timelines and narrative biographies.
“While not regularly the subject of news, those journalists who risk their lives reporting alongside the men and women of the Canadian Forces in one of the most dangerous regions in the world should not be forgotten,” affirmed Director of Communications / Press Secretary Prime Minister’s Office, Dimitri Soudas.
Natynczyk honoured her memory along with the fallen soldiers, “She was a tremendous Canadian, tremendous professional journalist and a role model for all young people and young women striking out on a career that is very difficult,” Natynczyk says, “”You know to some, those are names. To me, those are great people. Great soldiers. Great journalist. People who have gone across to the other side of the world to try to bring peace right here. … It’s very humbling to be here today and to share this with all the families so that they know that their loved ones’ service and sacrifice will never be forgotten by our country.“
- Canadian journalist killed in Afghanistan, remembered on blog” http://afghanistan.blogs.cnn.com/2009/12/31/canadian-journalist-killed-in-afghanistan-remembered-on-blog/). Afghanistan Crossroads. CNN blog. December 31, 2009. Retrieved November 11, 2012.
- “Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) Launches Impunity Campaign 2012” (http://www.cjfe.org/resources/features/cjfe-launches-impunity-campaign-2012).+cJFE.org.+November 1, 2012. Retrieved November 11, 2012.
- “CPJ unveils new database of journalists killed in action” (http://www.ifex.org/international/2009/10/28/new_database/).+(CPJ/IFEX) Committee to Protect Journalists / International Freedom of Expression Exchange network. October 26, 2009. Retrieved November 11, 2012.
- D’Aliesio, Renata; Suzanne Wilton (January 3, 2010). “Tenacious, eager and skilled, Michelle Lang was a natural reporter” (http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Tenacious+eager+skilled+Michelle+Lang+natural+reporter/2400684/story.html). Canwest News Service. Vancouver Sun. Retrieved November 11, 2012
- “Details of the Michelle Lang Fellow’s Year at the Calgary Herald and Postmedia News” (http://www.calgaryherald.com/michelle-lang-fellowship/fellowship.html). Calgary Herald. Postmedia Network Inc. May 29, 2012. Retrieved November 11, 2012.
- Fisher, Matthew (January 4, 2010). “Massive explosion killed Canadian journalist, four soldiers in Afghanistan, military says IED ‘deliberately’ placed in a tunnel dug under road” (http://www.canada.com/news/Massive+explosion+killed+Canadian+journalist+four+soldiers+Afghanistan+military+says/2405242/story.html).+Canwest News Service. Retrieved November 11, 2012.
- “5 Canadians killed in Afghanistan Roadside bomb hits armoured vehicle”] (http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2009/12/30/kandahar-soldiers.html).+CBC News. December 30, 2009. Retrieved November 11, 2012.
- Fleece, Troy (October 25, 2010). “Former journalist Michelle Lang honoured along with Canadian soldiers” (http://www.thedailyplanet.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=4249:former-journalist-michelle-lang-honoured-along-with-canadian-soldiers&catid=52:industry-links&Itemid=282).+Industry News Services. Retrieved November 11, 2012.
- “Four Canadian soldiers and one Canadian reporter killed and five injured in an IED strike” (http://www.afghanistan.gc.ca/canada-afghanistan/news-nouvelles/2009/2009_12_31a.aspx?lang=eng&view=din-combat/). ;National Defence Government of Canada. CEFCOM. December 31, 2009. Retrieved November 11, 2012.
- “Four Canadian soldiers and one Canadian reporter killed and five injured in an IED strike” (http://www.forces.gc.ca/site/mobil/news-nouvelles-eng.asp?id=3237). ;National Defence and the Canadian Forces Mobile Version. CEFCOM. December 31, 2009. Retrieved November 11, 2012.
- Libin, Sean. “159 fallen … the two who we must never forget” (http://www.portraitsofhonour.ca/submit/blogDisplay.cfm?id=52&addr=DiaryDetail&template=TemplateTourDiaryDetl). ;Portraits of Honour. Retrieved November 11, 2012.
- Dykstra, Matt (November 10, 2012). “Memorial became powerful symbol of sacrifice” (http://www.edmontonsun.com/2012/11/10/cenotaph-became-powerful-symbol-of-sacrifice).Edmonton Sun. Retrieved November 11, 2012.
- “Memorial for Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan unveiled” (http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/memorial-for-canadian-soldiers-killed-in-afghanistan-unveiled-1.1033008).CTV News. November 10, 2012. Retrieved November 11, 2012.
- “Memorial honours Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan” (http://news.sympatico.cbc.ca/home/memorial_honours_canadian_soldiers_killed_in_afghanistan/e28ad859).+CBC News. November 10, 2012. Retrieved November 11, 2012.
- Mertl, Steve (November 8, 2012). “Canadians’ image of Remembrance Day trapped in world war era, poll suggests” (http://ca.news.yahoo.com/blogs/dailybrew/canadians-image-remembrance-day-trapped-world-war-era-203713140.html). Yahoo Canada Co.. Daily Brew. Retrieved November 11, 2012.
- “Michelle Lang Obituary” (http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/calgaryherald/obituary.aspx?pid=138292017). ;Postmedia Network Inc. The Calgary Herald. January 8-10, 2010. Retrieved November 11, 2012.
- Moore, Dene (Oct 30, 2012). “Afghanistan war vets file class-action suit against federal government” (http://www.news919.com/news/national/article/417171–afghanistan-war-vets-file-class-action-suit-against-federal-government).+The Canadian Press. Retrieved November 11, 2012.
- Perkel, Colin (December 30, 2009). “‘Decent, curious’ journalist killed in bomb blast that claims life of four soldiers” (http://www.660news.com/news/world/article/12667—decent-curious-journalist-killed-in-bomb-blast-that-claims-life-of-four-soldiers).+The Canadian Press. Retrieved November 11, 2012.
- “Remembering LFWA Soldiers Killed in Action – 6” (http://www.army.gc.ca/lfwa/memoriams6_lfwa-eng.asp). Army LFWA In Memoriam. National Defence Government of Canada. Retrieved November 11, 2012.
- “Remembering LFWA Soldiers Killed in Action – 7” (http://www.army.gc.ca/lfwa/memoriams7_lfwa-eng.asp). Army LFWA In Memoriam. National Defence Government of Canada. Retrieved November 11, 2012.
- “Saskatchewan to honour the men and women killed during mission in Afghanistan” (http://www.gov.sk.ca/news?newsId=d086ba30-7bfe-4269-9611-aa778c93954b).+Government of Saskatchewan. October 21, 2010. Retrieved November 11, 2012.
- “Sask. War Memorial to inscribe name of fallen Herald journalist” (http://www.calgaryherald.com/news/calgary/Sask+Memorial+inscribe+name+fallen+Herald+journalist/3471187/story.html).+Regina Leader-Post. September 2, 2010. Retrieved November 11, 2012.
- Sawchuk, Katharine (January 1, 2010). Bodies of Canadian Soldiers and Journalist killed in Afghanistan Sent Home. (http://www.news1130.com/news/local/article/13051–bodies-of-canadian-soldiers-and-journalist-killed-in-afghanistan-sent-home). Rogers Communications. News 1130. Retrieved November 11, 2012.
- Schmidt, Doug (December 29, 2010). “Canadian journalist killed in Afghanistan remembered as ‘sweetheart'” (http://www.calgaryherald.com/news/Canadian+journalist+killed+Afghanistan+remembered+sweetheart/4037903/story.html).+The Calgary Herald. Retrieved November 11, 2012.
- “Slain journalist Lang honoured in memorial Bronze plaque adds Lang, Nuttall, Boyes to Saskatchewan War Memorial” (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/story/2010/10/23/sk-ab-bc-lang-memorial-1023.html).+CBC News. October 23, 2010. Retrieved November 11, 2012.
- Stone, Laura (January 2, 2010). “In 10 stories, a picture of Michelle Lang as reporter in Afghanistan” (http://www.canada.com/news/stories+picture+Michelle+Lang+reporter+Afghanistan/2396535/story.html).+Canwest News Service. Retrieved November 11, 2012.
- “Timeline: Canadian deaths in Afghanistan” (http://www.globalnews.ca/timeline+canadian+deaths+in+afghanistan/301089/story.html). Postmedia News. Global News. June 30, 2011. Retrieved November 11, 2012.
- “Timeline: Canadian deaths in Afghanistan” (http://www.canada.com/news/Timeline+Canadian+deaths+Afghanistan/1037437/story.html). IMAGE: The casket of journalist Michelle Lang of the Calgary Herald is carried into the belly of a military transport aircraft on New Year’s Day to begin the 10,000 kilometre journey back to Canada.. Postmedia News. March 28, 2011. Retrieved November 11, 2012.
- “Updated War Memoriam Plaque Unveiled in Regina” (http://www.army.gc.ca/lfwa/feature_war_plaque-eng.asp). National Defence LFWA Feature Stories. Government of Canada. 2010-10-27. Retrieved November 11, 2012.
For more information:
- Saskatchewan Virtual War Memorial Site Updated
- •What can be found at the NEW Saskatchewan Provincial Archives website?