Policy

General Vance issues statement regarding Afghan War Memorial

General Jonathan Vance, the Chief of Defence Staff, issued a public apology earlier today regarding in the military’s handling of the unveiling of the Afghan War Memorial.

“The best of intentions have led to unintended harm,” stated General Vance in a press release. “When it comes to the opening last week of the Afghanistan Memorial Hall at the new National Defence Headquarters, we unintentionally went down that path. We owe the family and friends of our Fallen, all who served in Afghanistan, and Canadians an apology for not properly including you and not properly communicating with you. I am truly sorry for our insensitivity and the pain, anger, and frustration that this decision caused you. I accept full responsibility for it all.”

In recent news articles family members of military personnel that died in the Afghan War expressed they felt betrayed by the Department of National Defence’s (DND) decision to hold a private service to dedicate the memorial, a decision that became public a few days after the event.

To complicate matters, DND chose a location for the Memorial that is behind the security cordon at the new DND headquarters in Kanata, ON. A statement was issued that while the Memorial was not open to the public, families of the fallen could book an appointment to see the Memorial when they were in Ottawa. After pushback, the CAF stated that they could accommodate, on appropriate occasions, special visits by the public to the Memorial.

“More importantly, an apology is meaningless unless the wrong it seeks to address is mitigated, and this is how we will make things right: “The Afghanistan Memorial Hall will become accessible to all who come and wish to see it. All members of the Canadian Armed Forces and their families can see it whenever they want by presenting their military identification card for access. While we must balance security and access, know that we have already established a system for personal escorted access to the memorial for the families of the Fallen

General Jonathan Vance

“Sadly, in trying to do the right thing by getting the Hall opened quickly so people, especially families of the Fallen, could arrange to visit, we alienated and angered these same people,” said General Vance, “Importantly, we also utterly failed to communicate the intent to hold an inclusive event in the future, following the opening of the Hall, to properly dedicate the Memorial. To each and to all, we offer our deepest apologies, and ask for forgiveness. We will be seeking input from the families of the Fallen on how best to conduct the dedication.”

General Vance claims that the decision on the Memorial’s location was made to keep the Memorial accessible, but also safe from the elements and vandalism. Accordingly, they placed it in a custom-designed space where people could pay their respects. “In our Headquarters, it will serve as a daily reminder to us of the true, and ongoing, cost of war: much like it did on the airfield in Kandahar,” said General Vance.

Afghanistan Memorial. Photos courtesy of CAF Facebook page.

The Chief of Defence Staff also claims that the decision on the Memorial’s location is in part due to plans to create a publicly accessible National Monument to Canada’s Mission in Afghanistan in Ottawa.

“Our colleagues at Veterans Affairs Canada are working with the Department of Canadian Heritage and the National Capital Commission on this important project and we look forward to standing with them, the families of the Fallen, and our Veterans, on the day of its unveiling and dedication,” said General Vance.

In order to rectify the issue, General Vance has stated that the Afghanistan Memorial Hall will be accessible to all who wish to view it. Military members and family will only need to show their military ID in order to gain access.

General Vance said that visits will be escorted as they do need to maintain a balance between access and security.

General Vance has also mentioned in the press release that a website will soon be launched with more details on visiting.

Photos courtesy of CAF Facebook page.

Read General Vance’s Full Statement: 

General Jonathan Vance, the Chief of the Defence Staff, made the following statement:

“To our beloved Memorial Cross Families, our honoured Veterans and all Canadians,

“The best of intentions have led to unintended harm. When it comes to the opening last week of the Afghanistan Memorial Hall at the new National Defence Headquarters, we unintentionally went down that path. We owe the family and friends of our Fallen, all who served in Afghanistan, and Canadians an apology for not properly including you and not properly communicating with you. I am truly sorry for our insensitivity and the pain, anger and frustration that this decision caused you. I accept full responsibility for it all.

“You also deserve an explanation, and a changed approach.

“When the monument, once known as the Kandahar Airfield (KAF) Cenotaph, needed a permanent home, we considered several options, but ultimately decided to have it reside within the Headquarters lines on our new campus at Carling. Our concern was to keep the monument accessible, but also safe from the elements and vandalism, so we decided to protect it within our base in a space custom-designed to house it in a dignified and peaceful setting, where people could pay their respects. We wanted to honour the Fallen – Canadian, U.S., military and civilian – by protecting this legacy of theirs carved in stone. In our Headquarters, it will serve as a daily reminder to us of the true, and ongoing, cost of war: much like it did on the airfield in Kandahar.‎

“We also made this decision to install it within the secured zone of the Headquarters in light of plans to create a publicly accessible National Monument to Canada’s Mission in Afghanistan in Ottawa. This new monument will recognize the commitment and sacrifice of Canadian men and women who served in Afghanistan, as well as the support provided to them by Canadians at home. Our colleagues at Veterans Affairs Canada are working with the Department of Canadian Heritage and the National Capital Commission on this important project and we look forward to standing with them, the families of the Fallen, and our Veterans, on the day of its unveiling and dedication.

“Sadly, in trying to do the right thing by getting the Hall opened quickly so people, especially families of the Fallen, could arrange to visit, we alienated and angered these same people. Importantly, we also utterly failed to communicate the intent to hold an inclusive event in the future, following the opening of the Hall, to properly dedicate the Memorial. To each and to all, we offer our deepest apologies, and ask for forgiveness. We will be seeking input from the families of the Fallen on how best to conduct the dedication.

“More importantly, an apology is meaningless unless the wrong it seeks to address is mitigated, and this is how we will make things right:

“The Afghanistan Memorial Hall will become accessible to all who come and wish to see it. All members of the Canadian Armed Forces and their families can see it whenever they want by presenting their military identification card for access. While we must balance security and access, know that we have already established a system for personal escorted access to the memorial for the families of the Fallen. Indeed, several families have already reached out to us via the email address established for them: AfghanistanMemorial@forces.gc.ca.

“We are now coordinating their visits. Families and Veterans may also attend the Headquarters, and they will be immediately escorted for a visit. Details for timing will be forthcoming on a website to be launched shortly.

“In the coming month, we will begin providing continuous scheduled visit-opportunities to all who wish to visit, and we encourage you to do so. This letter will be sent by email or courier to known addresses of the families of the Fallen. Any family members of our Fallen, military or civilian, who would like to confirm their contact information are invited to contact us at: VisitorAfghanMemorial-visiteurmemorialAfghan@forces.gc.ca

“Canadians entrust us with their security and defence. Families of our Fallen and our Veterans entrust us with the honour of remembrance. Both are our sworn duty. We are a visible symbol around the world of what this great nation represents, and we constantly strive to be worthy of the support you give us, and we must return that support with professionalism in all we strive to do. That remains our pledge to you.

“Lest we forget.”

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Cyndi Mills

Admittedly the Queen of Typos, Cyndi Mills strives for none, but one or two always seems to slip in. She apologizes! Over the last 27 years Cyndi has had the opportunity to move around the country with her husband, Scott and their four children. Having lived in Chilliwack, Edmonton, London, and Petawawa. She stumbled into the world of journalism by accident – looking for a career that could give her the flexibility to work from home to be with her children and support her husband's military career. Cyndi is also a military parent as her two oldest children are in the military. Raising her third and fourth teenagers, she tries to keep sane by walking, gardening, writing, and spending time with her family while running Canadian Military Family Magazine.

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