Honouring soldiers or violence? N.B. town suspends plan for military memorial
FREDERICTON -- A New Brunswick town is suspending its plan to install an armoured military vehicle in a memorial park following protests from dozens of citizens.
The 8th Canadian Hussars regiment donated a retired Cougar AVGP to Sackville in February. The town council decided to install it in Memorial Park, which already features another military vehicle.
But some residents say they only recently learned of the plan and don't want the vehicle anywhere in Sackville.
Resident Alex Thomas said he understood the importance of recognizing the regiment's historic connection with the town as well as the 55 Sackville citizens who died fighting fascism in Italy during World War 2. But installing the Cougar in the park, he said, is a monument to war, not to the fallen.
"This modern armoured vehicle is a symbol of military violence and it does not serve as an appropriate memorial to those who served," Thomas said Wednesday in an interview.
Despite the fact Memorial Park is already home to one retired military vehicle, Thomas said the town doesn't need another one.
Sackville Mayor John Higham said council discussed the donated Cougar in an open session last February. But, he added, many residents were unaware of the plan until crews began installing a concrete pad in the park on which to mount the vehicle.
People started debating whether the Cougar should be moved to another location, and then others started a movement to halt the donation altogether, Higham said.
"Today I have asked staff to delay any further work on it at this point and we're going to give those people an opportunity to come to council in a public forum and make their pitch," the mayor said Wednesday in an interview.
"We'll hear what they have to say," he continued, "and what their ideas and alternatives are. And then council will consider what it wants to do with the Cougar at that point."
Jim Lockyer, honorary colonel of the 8th Hussars, said the vehicle doesn't glorify violence -- it's a monument to the tragedy of war. "It's just a visual reminder that we don't have to go back to war again hopefully ever in the future," Lockyer said in an interview.
The six-wheeled vehicle is armoured, but is not a tank, he said. "It's an amphibious, armoured reconnaissance vehicle. It was used by the Canadian Forces and the 8th Hussars themselves, from about the early 1970s through to about 2006."
The Cougars were used strictly as training vehicles for Canadian Forces. After they were taken out of service, many were sold to other countries while some were saved as monuments. There is one on display in the nearby town of Sussex.
Lockyer said young Canadian men and women went overseas and fought for the ability to have this kind of public discussion. "That's what democracy is all about," he said, adding he will be satisfied with whatever the town council decides to do.