US & Canada

Canadian military who crashed indigenous ceremony suspended

Chief of the Defence Staff General Jonathan Vance speaks following the announcement of Canada's new defence policy Image copyright Reuters
Image caption General Jonathan Vance (L) has condemned the actions of five servicemen

Five members of the Canadian Armed Forces are facing possible expulsion from the military after crashing an indigenous event on Canada Day.

General Jonathan Vance, Canada's top soldier, has opened an investigation into the weekend incident and has called it "deplorable".

Video from the day shows a tense exchange between the servicemen and people attending the ceremony.

One claims they are members of an alt-right group called "Proud Boys".

That group describes itself on Facebook as "a fraternal organisation of Western Chauvinists who will no longer apologise for creating the modern world".

Among the values they cite are minimal government, anti-political correctness, closed borders, anti-racial guilt, anti-racism, glorifying the entrepreneur and venerating the housewife.

In video from Saturday's confrontation, the servicemen are seen carrying Canada's former "Red Ensign" flag, which includes the Union flag and went out of official use in 1965 after being replaced by the maple leaf design.

One woman is heard asking: "What caused you to feel the need to bring a British flag?"

One man responds: "Because it's a British colony."

"You're recognising your heritage and so are we," another says.

After about 10 minutes, the group leaves the park.

Gen Vance, Canada's Chief of the Defence Staff, said in a statement that he "detests any action by a Canadian Armed Forces member that is intended to show disrespect towards the very people and cultures we value in Canada".

He adds: that any military member "who is not prepared to be the defender we need them to be will face severe consequences, including release from the forces".

Gen Vance said the servicemen involved have been removed from active duty and that their future in the military is in doubt.

A sixth armed forces member was also involved but is not under review, according to a National defence spokesperson.

The First Nations ceremony held by a small group of protesters in Halifax on Canada Day was meant to mark the country's troubled history with indigenous peoples. It was held next to the statue of the city's founder, British military officer Edward Cornwallis.

Halifax is in the midst of a long debate over how the city commemorates Cornwallis, who in 1749 placed a bounty on the scalps of Mi'kmaq people after they rebelled against the British.

Related Topics

More on this story