Navy apol­o­gizes for In­dige­nous cer­e­mony in­ci­dent

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - ADINA BRESGE

HAL­I­FAX — The com­man­der of Canada’s East Coast Navy has apol­o­gized to the Abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­nity for a Canada Day con­fronta­tion in which Armed Forces mem­bers dis­rupted a cer­e­mony in Hal­i­fax.

Rear Ad­mi­ral John New­ton said he has spo­ken to five men who ap­proached a spir­i­tual event hon­our­ing the suf­fer­ing of In­dige­nous peo­ples at a statue of Hal­i­fax’s con­tro­ver­sial founder, Ed­ward Corn­wal­lis.

The group 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,” ac­cord­ing to one Mi’kmaq or­ga­nizer. 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.”

“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,” New­ton, com­man­der of Mar­itime Forces At­lantic, said Tues­day, stand­ing at the edge of a jetty at HMC Dock­yard.

“Their per­sonal be­liefs, whether re­li­gious, po­lit­i­cal or white supremacy, what­ever the Proud Boys rep­re­sent, it’s not a shared value of the Cana­dian Armed Forces.”

He said six mem­bers of the mil­i­tary, in­clud­ing mem­bers of the Royal Cana­dian Navy, the Cana­dian army and a mem­ber of a cadet or­ga­ni­za­tion, were in­volved. They will face an ad­min­is­tra­tive process and a sep­a­rate process un­der the mil­i­tary jus­tice sys­tem, he said.

“I apol­o­gize for the ac­tions of my young sailors, and ... I hope that those young peo­ple will find a mo­ment to make their own apolo­gies in due course.”

New­ton said he re­ceived com­plaints from Abo­rig­i­nal friends, and there was a “con­sid­er­able out­cry” from serv­ing mem­bers of the Forces.

“We have such a very open and in­clu­sive mes­sage. It helps to sta­bi­lize con­flict around the world,” he said.

“Those val­ues are very much at stake in an in­ci­dent like this.”

A spokesper­son for De­fence Min­is­ter Har­jit Sa­j­jan said his of­fice is fol­low­ing the mat­ter closely.

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.

A video of the Canada Day in­ci­dent at the Corn­wal­lis statue shows five men in­ter­act­ing with spec­ta­tors at the cer­e­mony.

“This is a Bri­tish colony,” one of the men says in the video.

“You’re rec­og­niz­ing the heritage and so are we.”

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