Mi’kmaq or­ga­nizer wants more than apol­ogy

Mil­i­tary needs more ed­u­ca­tion on Abo­rig­i­nal his­tory

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - MICHAEL MAC­DON­ALD HALIFAX —

An or­ga­nizer of the Abo­rig­i­nal cer­e­mony in Halifax dis­rupted by off-duty mem­bers of the Armed Forces on Canada Day says she is glad the mil­i­tary has apol­o­gized but she also wants a pub­lic ac­knowl­edg­ment that much of the East Coast is un­ceded Mi’kmaq ter­ri­tory.

“More than an apol­ogy, I need that ed­u­ca­tion out there,” Re­becca Moore, a mem­ber of Nova Sco­tia’s Pictou Land­ing First Na­tion, said Wed­nes­day.

“That needs to be well known. That needs to be broad­cast loud and clear by the Cana­dian Armed Forces.

“They need to make sure that their em­ploy­ees are well aware of that to avoid fu­ture con­flicts like this.”

Gen. Jonathan Vance, the chief of the de­fence staff, said late Tues­day that the Forces’ mem­bers in­volved will be re­moved from train­ing and du­ties while the mil­i­tary con­ducts an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

He added that the mem­bers’ fu­ture with the Forces “is cer­tainly in doubt.”

On Satur­day, five young Forces mem­bers dressed in black polo shirts, car­ry­ing the old Red En­sign flag, and singing “God Save the Queen” ap­proached the cer­e­mony, where a crowd had gath­ered to mourn the loss of life as­so­ci­ated with Euro­pean col­o­niza­tion.

The cer­e­mony was be­ing held at the foot of a statue of Bri­tish mil­i­tary man Ed­ward Corn­wal­lis, a for­mer gov­er­nor of Nova Sco­tia and the founder of Halifax in 1749.

A tense but non-vi­o­lent con­fronta­tion lasted for about 10 min­utes, as the men took is­sue with as­ser­tions from or­ga­niz­ers that they were in­ter­rupt­ing a sa­cred rite on Mi’kmaq ter­ri­tory.

“This is Canada,” one of the men said, his com­ments cap­tured on a cell­phone video posted on so­cial me­dia.

“It might have been Mi’kmaq ter­ri­tory.”

The men said they were mem­bers of the Proud Boys, a self-de­clared group of “West­ern Chau­vin­ists” who say they are tired of apol­o­giz­ing “for cre­at­ing the mod­ern world.”

Moore said the in­ter­rup­tion was in­ex­cus­able.

“We wouldn’t go up and in­ter­rupt a Re­mem­brance Day pa­rade for peo­ple mourn­ing their fallen sol­diers,” she said. “It’s the same thing. It was dis­grace­ful.”

In an in­ter­view with CBC News Wed­nes­day, Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes said the five did not dis­rupt the Halifax cer­e­mony, and only in­tended to check out what he de­scribed as an anti-Canada rally. He said he has posted a pe­ti­tion de­fend­ing the five men, and hoped to fly to Halifax to present it to mil­i­tary brass.

“As a Cana­dian I’m em­bar­rassed,” said McInnes, the Cana­dian co-founder of Vice mag­a­zine. “Th­ese guys are be­ing pil­lo­ried for do­ing their jobs.”

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment and the head of the Cana­dian Armed Forces had made it clear late Tues­day that the ac­tions of the five men were un­ac­cept­able.

“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,” said Vance.

“What hap­pened in Halifax over the week­end is de­plorable ... The mem­bers in­volved will be re­moved from train­ing and du­ties while we con­duct an in­ves­ti­ga­tion and re­view the cir­cum­stances. Their fu­ture in the mil­i­tary is cer­tainly in doubt.”

Vance also is­sued an apol­ogy to In­dige­nous peo­ple, as did Rear Ad­mi­ral John New­ton, the com­man­der of Mar­itime Forces At­lantic.

The Depart­ment of Na­tional De­fence is­sued a brief state­ment Wed­nes­day, con­firm­ing that mil­i­tary po­lice have started an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“The bot­tom line is that In­dige­nous peo­ple are core mem­bers of the de­fence team and de­serve to be cel­e­brated as such,” depart­ment spokesman Daniel Le Bouthillier said in an emailed state­ment.

“The de­fence team works hard to foster a di­verse, in­clu­sive or­ga­ni­za­tion and will con­tinue th­ese ef­forts to en­sure a re­spect­ful, dig­ni­fied en­vi­ron­ment for all Cana­di­ans.”

Le Bouthillier said he could not com­ment on Moore’s sug­ges­tion that the depart­ment pro­vide mil­i­tary mem­bers with more ed­u­ca­tion about the Peace and Friend­ship Treaties, signed be­tween the Bri­tish and Mi’kmaq and Maliseet na­tions in the Mar­itimes be­tween 1725 and 1761.

JUSTIN TANG, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO

Chief of the De­fence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance has con­demned the ac­tions of a group of Armed Forces mem­bers who dis­rupted a spir­i­tual event on Canada Day.

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