Top General Apologizes for Incident at Indigenous Ceremony on Canada Day

By Bresge, Adina | The Canadian Press, July 4, 2017 | Go to article overview

Top General Apologizes for Incident at Indigenous Ceremony on Canada Day


Bresge, Adina, The Canadian Press


Top general apologizes for Halifax incident

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HALIFAX - Canada's top general has condemned the actions of a group of Armed Forces members who disrupted a spiritual event on Canada Day marking the suffering of Indigenous Peoples at a statue of Halifax's controversial founder, Edward Cornwallis.

Gen. Jonathan Vance, chief of the defence staff, called the incident "deplorable" and said the men will be removed from training and duties while the incident is investigated.

On Saturday, the group of men were clad in black polo shirts with yellow piping -- one of them carrying a Red Ensign Flag -- as they approached singing "God Save the Queen," one Mi'kmaq organizer said. The Canadian Red Ensign, which bears the Union Jack in the corner, was the national flag until it was replaced by the Maple Leaf design in 1965.

The men said they were members of the Proud Boys, a self-declared group of "Western Chauvinists."

Cornwallis, as governor of Nova Scotia, founded Halifax in 1749, and soon after issued a bounty on Mi'kmaq scalps in response to an attack on colonists. His legacy has become controversial, with debate recently over the use of his name on buildings, street signs and parks.

In a statement Tuesday night, Vance was the latest official to offer an apology to the Indigenous community, adding that the actions of the men "certainly do not represent the broader group of proud women and men who serve our country."

"I detest any action by a Canadian Armed Forces member that is intended to show disrespect towards the very people and cultures we value in Canada," Vance said. "We are the nation's protectors, and any member of the Canadian Armed Forces who is not prepared to be the defender we need them to be will face severe consequences, including release from the Forces."

Earlier Tuesday, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said there will be consequences for military personnel who "express intolerance while in -- or out -- of uniform."

Sajjan also apologized to Halifax's Mi'kmaq community and Chief Grizzly Mamma, who took part in the ceremony, "for the pain this incident has caused."

"I know my words cannot undo the disrespect that was shown to you and your community. I know our government has much more work to do with respect to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples," he said in a statement.

"But I want to give you my personal assurance that this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated within the ranks of the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence."

The commander of Canada's East Coast Navy confirmed that six members of the military, including members of the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian army and a member of a cadet organization, were involved.

"I told the young people they had crossed a line where their personal beliefs, their personal ideology -- which they are allowed to have -- got into the public domain," Rear Admiral John Newton, commander of Maritime Forces Atlantic, told reporters at a news conference in Halifax. …

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