'Our fallen would be disappointed' by Don Cherry's comments: Sajjan
TORONTO – Canada’s minister of national defence has a message for Don Cherry: Take a history class.
Harjit Sajjan said Monday that the comments about immigrants and poppies that led to the hockey commentator’s firing are “a reminder to all of us that there’s a lot more education that we need to do.”
“I think our fallen would be disappointed to hear comments like this,” he added.
Cherry was fired by Sportsnet on Monday, two days after he claimed on a national broadcast that immigrants do not wear poppies.
“You people … that come here, whatever it is, you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you can pay a couple bucks for a poppy or something like that.”
Speaking on CTV’s Power Play, Sajjan said that the popular commentator’s remarks were “extremely disappointing” and suggested that the online outrage they provoked was justified.
“I think Canadians have reacted in a fair way,” he said.
“How can we now, as a government, as communities, teach people about the tremendous sacrifices that have been made by all, so that comments like this are not made? Because if anybody knew the history, these comments, I think, wouldn’t be made.”
Sajjan was the latest in a series of military and political leaders to criticize Cherry’s remarks.
Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay called the comments “totally inappropriate,” while defence chief Gen. Jonathan Vance said that “nobody should be shamed into wearing a poppy.”
Sajjan, who was born in India and moved to Canada at the age of five, spent time in the Canadian Armed Forces including serving in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and in Afghanistan.
The defence minister said he attended two Remembrance Day ceremonies on Monday where he saw “Canadians of all backgrounds” taking part, and wanted to make sure that diversity was highlighted.
He likened that experience to when he was attempting to recruit more people from visible minority groups into the military. He said many new recruits told him that they were enlisting as a way of repaying the country that had taken them in.
“The ones that joined, I would ask them ‘Why’d you join?’ – and a countless number of people would say, ‘It is my way of saying thank you,’” he said.
With files from The Canadian Press