Secret dedication of Afghanistan war memorial slammed by former mission commander
The former commander of NATO’s mission in Afghanistan has slammed the secret dedication of a memorial to fallen Canadian soldiers.
A new monument to Canada’s military and civilian war dead was dedicated last week, deep inside National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa.
The ceremony went ahead without a public notice or invitation to families of the fallen, with only military top brass in attendance.
“Why we would do this in such a quiet and secretive way it kind of baffles, the whole idea of the monument was to acknowledge and remember the sacrifice of 162 men and women from this country,” retired Major-General David Fraser told CTV’s Power Play on Wednesday.
“It seems to be a real misstep by the military and the department that they did not be more inclusive in this event.”
Many Canadians are outraged that special permission is needed to view the memorial.
“At the very least, for the short term, the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department for National Defence have got to change the accessibility of this to allow people to get to it,” Fraser said.
“If that’s not doable then they’ve got to find a new site somewhere around Ottawa where Canadians can go and see this. “
A battlefield monument dedicated to Canada's military and civilian war dead stood for years at Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan.
It was moved to Canada after the combat mission ended in 2011.
“My first question is how will the 40,000 men and women who served over there and the families of the fallen get access to this place,” Fraser said.
“This is part of our heritage and we’ve got to share this with everyone. It’s emotional for all of us, I put 35 plaques up when I was there.”
There are 162 Canadian names on the monument including a journalist and a number of civilians.
“I hate to say it, but the staff made this a problem when really it’s not a problem,” Fraser added.
“It’s something that has to change, they cannot leave it the way it is now, we’ve got to allow people to go and see and understand our history so we don’t have to do this ever again.”
The Department of National Defence said the decision to hold the dedication in private was made by “senior leadership.”
"To ensure a dignified dedication service, a quiet, limited service was held in honour of those we have lost," the department said in a statement.
"The decision to hold a humble, internal event was made by senior leadership to ensure proper reverence."
In a Canadian Press interview, Canada’s top soldier Jonathan Vance pledged to widen access, but said the memorial would not be moved.
"We're probably going to have to do something like what happens at the Pentagon, where there are Pentagon tours," he said.
In Vancouver, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he wanted to understand the department's decision-making.
“(To) ensure that it is a monument that will be there for everyone who wants to remember and celebrate those veterans who stood for Canada in faraway lands,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.
"Planning is currently underway to facilitate access to veterans who would like to pay respects to their fallen comrades," the defence department said.
“We are also considering ways to accommodate special visits by the public on appropriate occasions."
--- With files from The Canadian Press