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View Bryan May Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Bryan May Profile
2021-05-03 15:40
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I call this meeting to order.
Welcome to meeting number 23 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs. Today's meeting is taking place in the hybrid format that we are now becoming used to.
Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) and the motion adopted by the committee on October 27, 2020, the committee is resuming its study on a strategy for commemorations in the 21st century.
I'd like to welcome all the witnesses who have taken the time to join us today.
The meeting today is broken up into two hours. In the first hour, we're going to be meeting with Department of Veterans Affairs officials. I will introduce all of you and explain the second hour as well. Then we'll come back to give you an opportunity for opening remarks.
First off, I'll introduce Mr. Rick Christopher, assistant deputy minister, strategic policy and commemoration; retired Colonel Michael Pearson, director, commemoration operations; and Paul Thomson, director general, commemoration division.
We'll be joined in the second hour by the Royal Canadian Legion, from which we have Mr. Steven Clark, national executive director.
Mr. Christopher will start us off in the first hour.
You have five minutes for your opening remarks.
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Rick Christopher
View Rick Christopher Profile
Rick Christopher
2021-05-03 15:41
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Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good afternoon, Mr. Chair, members of the committee. It is a pleasure to be here today.
I would like to begin by acknowledging that the land from which Paul and I are talking to you is the traditional and unceded territory of the Abegweit Mi'kmaq first nation.
On this day 104 years ago, at 3:45 a.m., the 27th Canadian infantry battalion advanced over an open plain under heavy shelling towards the town of Fresnoy, France. While most of the battalion was stopped short of the objective, Lieutenant Robert Combe led five men across the line. Using his opponents' own grenades, he cleared the trench and captured 80 enemy soldiers. Once his position was secured by reinforcements, Lieutenant Combe continued to advance until he was killed by an enemy sniper. He had been in France for two weeks.
Lieutenant Combe was laid to rest in the field cemetery at Acheville, France, which was later destroyed in the fighting. His name, along with the names of 11,284 other Canadian soldiers with no known graves, is inscribed on the Vimy Memorial.
I've told you this story because it is our privilege and obligation to continue the sacred tradition of remembering and honouring all those who have served and given so much to Canada and Canadians.
This has become much more challenging during the past year. The pandemic has continued to test the mettle of all Canadians, including veterans and their families, members of the Canadian Forces and the RCMP. The Department of Veterans Affairs and many organizations that support veterans have shown their resilience and flexibility by adjusting their approach in the face of the pandemic. I am proud of what we have accomplished.
In May 2020, we marked the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands and the end of the Second World War in Europe. An overseas delegation was planned, including the participation of a veteran delegation at a number of ceremonies in Europe. Sadly, this had to be postponed to a later date.
However, to recognize this important anniversary, we produced a virtual ceremony. The video received over 125,000 views on Facebook. We also reached out to schools, youth and community groups across Canada and distributed bilingual learning resources with a focus on the liberation of the Netherlands.
For the first time in history, in 2020, Veterans' Week was held virtually. Through livestreaming ceremonies, online learning resources, Faces of Freedom podcasts, and streaming videos of the Kipnes Lantern and the virtual poppy drop, we were able to bring Canadians together.
The candlelight tribute ceremony, which also takes place every year during Veterans' Week, was held virtually. The video featured veterans in long-term care facilities across Canada and was viewed over 64,000 times.
In March, we highlighted the contribution of women in uniform on our social media channels. We ran a campaign that focused on sharing the stories of more than a dozen women veterans from diverse backgrounds during the “They proudly served” series. This sparked meaningful conversations about their experiences in the Canadian Armed Forces.
One of our objectives is to educate youth to ensure that they continue to carry the torch of remembrance. Previously, youth representatives were an important part of our overseas delegations for significant anniversaries. We have had to find new ways to keep our youth connected and engaged.
The commemoration division's learning unit has connected with over 57,000 educators and youth leaders interested in receiving our learning materials. We continue to send information to educator partners on new materials, events and anniversaries related to remembrance throughout the year, so that they can be shared with young Canadians.
The Minister of Veterans Affairs awarded commendations virtually this year to 67 recipients. These are usually awarded in person to individuals who have contributed in an exemplary manner to the care and well-being of veterans or to the remembrance of the contributions, sacrifices and achievements of veterans.
Last year, our commemorative partnership program approved over $1.6 million for 158 projects across the country. The department continued to support organizations with initiatives that honour those who served in Canada during times of war, military conflict and peace.
For example, the program funded the Niagara Military Museum's exhibit on the Black military history of Niagara. The exhibit featured personal stories of service from various conflicts, including the First and Second World Wars, the Korean War, and Afghanistan. The project included online materials, study guides and fact sheets, and has travelled to a number of schools across the region.
I want to take this opportunity to provide the committee with our vision of the future of commemoration. The department developed a 10-year commemoration strategic plan in partnership with the ministerial advisory group on commemorations. This plan outlines how we will help Canadians understand how service advances peace and global security, inspire Canadians to actively recognize the services of sacrifices of all who serve, and preserve memorials and grave markers in a sustainable and dignified way.
Through 2021, the department will consult with veterans and other Canadians to seek their views on our approach and hear their ideas on how best to remember Canadian military missions and recognize those who have served our country in war and in peace.
At Veterans Affairs Canada, despite the pandemic, we are continuing to connect with Canadians in new ways to ensure we recognize our veterans, their sacrifices and their service to our country. We are using these new approaches, adopted out of necessity, to change the way we honour our past and commemorate in the future.
Thank you.
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View Bryan May Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Bryan May Profile
2021-05-03 15:47
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Thank you very much, Mr. Christopher.
I see that Mr. Desilets has joined us, so we'll say bon voyage to Alexis.
We're going to suspend for just a moment to do Mr. Desilets's sound check.
The Chair: We're back. Mr. Doherty will start us off, for six minutes.
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View Todd Doherty Profile
CPC (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Christopher, did you say there was $1.6 million for 158 projects?
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Rick Christopher
View Rick Christopher Profile
Rick Christopher
2021-05-03 15:49
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Yes, that is correct. That is the commemorative partnership program. It's community-based. There are smaller, community programs for initiatives, and some larger initiatives. It varies from year to year, but that's about it.
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View Todd Doherty Profile
CPC (BC)
That would be roughly $10,126 for each project. Is that correct?
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Rick Christopher
View Rick Christopher Profile
Rick Christopher
2021-05-03 15:49
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That's correct. I don't have the math in front of me, but yes, that sounds like a proper average.
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View Todd Doherty Profile
CPC (BC)
Do you feel that's enough?
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Rick Christopher
View Rick Christopher Profile
Rick Christopher
2021-05-03 15:49
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I do. Every year, the program is heavily subscribed. The recipients are very eager and keen to get that funding, and provide the support.
This year was a bit different in that we had to shift dramatically, because some of the events we supported were in-person events, so that changed the focus. We certainly spent a lot of time working with some of these organizations to make sure we were able to continue to fund them; we worked with them to figure out what their new way of commemorating would look like during the pandemic.
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View Todd Doherty Profile
CPC (BC)
How do you think the 40,000 veterans of the war in Afghanistan should be commemorated?
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Rick Christopher
View Rick Christopher Profile
Rick Christopher
2021-05-03 15:50
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The department is certainly working on a strategy to make sure we are commemorating the modern veterans. We've shifted, over the past several years, from a more traditional, single large conflict type of commemoration, where you had a fairly homogenous group of veterans who served during those times.
We're moving towards a more modern approach, where we're looking at more regional types of conflicts. Obviously, we have the Afghanistan memorial, which we're working on in partnership with Heritage Canada and the National Capital Commission.
Perhaps Paul could give you a little more information on that.
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View Todd Doherty Profile
CPC (BC)
I have another question, actually, and perhaps both of you could answer.
As you know, many of our veterans are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, moral injury or mental health injury. Many of them choose death by suicide.
Are we going to commemorate the loss of life of those who are struggling, have struggled and have lost the fight, due to their service? If so, how?
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Rick Christopher
View Rick Christopher Profile
Rick Christopher
2021-05-03 15:51
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What I would say to that is, yes, we are going to commemorate and we do commemorate those. One suicide is obviously too many. The department has any number of programs to try to make sure that number is as small as it possibly can be and hopefully zero. That being said, if someone has a mental health injury, we do not differentiate between mental health and physical conditions. If someone unfortunately is to die from their condition related to the service, we commemorate them as we would any other soldier or veteran.
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View Todd Doherty Profile
CPC (BC)
That's good to hear.
Mr. Christopher, has the consultation process for the commemoration strategy started?
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Rick Christopher
View Rick Christopher Profile
Rick Christopher
2021-05-03 15:52
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Yes. The consultation process has started. I will say that in developing the strategy we worked very closely with the commemoration advisory group and then began to consult and share some of the strategy. We're going to be going out more widely. Of course, the pandemic put a bit of a loop in things, but certainly Paul can expand on the plan a bit.
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View Todd Doherty Profile
CPC (BC)
With that, which groups have been consulted and for which ones is there a plan to consult?
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Rick Christopher
View Rick Christopher Profile
Rick Christopher
2021-05-03 15:53
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Do you want to take that, Paul?
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Paul Thomson
View Paul Thomson Profile
Paul Thomson
2021-05-03 15:53
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Sure. Thanks, Rick.
MP Doherty, we've consulted and, as Rick alluded to, we've collaborated with the minister's commemorative advisory group. They've been a key resource but also a significant input into the development of it. We have talked to a number of other groups and socialized a plan with our DND colleagues, with other entities and other organizations out there, including youth organizations and others, to ensure that we are getting the feedback we need. We're going to continue to do that. The key point here is that the plan as it stands now is a draft consultative version, and that is going to remain the case as we continue to socialize this plan and get feedback.
One of the fundamental themes of the plan is that we want to develop content and initiatives in expanding our focus to focus more on younger veterans, more recent conflicts and peacekeeping initiatives.
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View Todd Doherty Profile
CPC (BC)
Thank you for that.
When do you expect the consultation process to wrap up?
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Paul Thomson
View Paul Thomson Profile
Paul Thomson
2021-05-03 15:54
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It's an ongoing process. Again, we're going to be implementing the plan and iterating, learning and developing as we go. At this point, I'm hesitant to say when the actual final version will be done, because I think it's more important to get that valuable feedback from key audiences and key stakeholders. That way, like I said, we can continue to iterate and develop that content and expand our focus so we're resonating with some of our key audiences and the under-represented communities that we want to increase our focus on.
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View Bryan May Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Bryan May Profile
2021-05-03 15:55
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Thanks, Todd.
Up next is MP Lalonde, for six minutes.
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View Marie-France Lalonde Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Marie-France Lalonde Profile
2021-05-03 15:55
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Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Christopher, I would like to thank you for your presentation, and especially for your leadership during a very difficult year.
I wanted to discuss the shift or expansion of focus from World War II and the Korean War to more recent engagements like the war in Afghanistan or peacekeeping missions, as well as the RCMP. Thinking about the shift, will this change in focus alter how VAC approaches its commemorative activities?
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Rick Christopher
View Rick Christopher Profile
Rick Christopher
2021-05-03 15:55
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Mr. Chair, there are a number of things. As I mentioned in my opening remarks, there's been a shift to the point where 94% of the veterans we serve are considered to be modern veterans. I don't like the name, but it's the one we're using right now. Post Korea would be another way to describe it. The places where these veterans have served are across the world, as I mentioned. They're not one single conflict, so there are a number of groups, associations and veterans organizations that would like to commemorate those missions. That's one consideration.
The other is really that the technology has changed. We're moving from a situation where the emphasis was on in-person events; any of the social media applications that we would do would be an add-on or a bit of an afterthought. Now, really, it's hand and glove with both of these: in-person events where possible during these times, but also heavy on the social media.
Paul, do you want to talk about Canada and the world, and what we're doing in terms of having particular years where we would be doing a particular area in the world?
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Paul Thomson
View Paul Thomson Profile
Paul Thomson
2021-05-03 15:57
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Thanks, Mr. Chair.
This is just to flag the fact that our focus on younger veterans and more recent conflicts is not at the expense of our work with respect to the First World War, the Second World War and the older, traditional milestones. We are expanding our scope. We are not changing the key things we do for the First World War and the Second World War. We're just expanding.
As Rick said, one of the key themes or ideas that we had in our strategic plan for our more recent conflicts and younger veterans was to focus on these regions, so we do five-year cycles of regions, including Canada. Whether it's the Middle East one year and Asia, Africa and the Americas, including Canada, the next, our purpose is to recognize, acknowledge and inform Canadians about the service and sacrifice of younger veterans.
Going back to an earlier question with regard to PTSD, I think one of the key roles that commemoration can play is to help younger veterans accept and embrace their identity as veterans and validate their service and sacrifice. We can contribute in this way to veteran well-being and facilitate their transition, whether they're transitioning from being a CAF member to being a civilian member of society or just being recognized and feeling validated within their own communities for their contribution, service and sacrifice. That's a role we can play and are playing with regard to our veterans.
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View Marie-France Lalonde Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Marie-France Lalonde Profile
2021-05-03 15:58
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Thank you very much. I have to agree. I represent Orleans, where a large number of veterans and active members live.
Mr. Christopher, I want to come back to one thing you mentioned regarding this pandemic and how things have changed and really forced us to adapt a lot of our commemorative activities. Certainly here in Orleans, where we usually had thousands of people, we had to scale down. I think there were only 25 people. This new, virtual form of commemoration is now a language that we're having this discussion about.
May I ask what the VAC team at the department has taken from this experience that could play a role in commemorative strategies once the pandemic has passed?
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Rick Christopher
View Rick Christopher Profile
Rick Christopher
2021-05-03 15:59
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Mr. Chair, we've done a number of things and we've learned a number of lessons.
When we realized that the ceremony for the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands was not going to happen, we had to immediately shift gears. I have to say that it tested the resilience of our people, but we came through and were able to give what I would consider an excellent commemoration online.
We learned a number of things in terms of how we can deliver content virtually and how it can support or be on its own. If you think about the virtual candlelight ceremony that I mentioned, I saw that and was very impressed and touched. The big lessons are that it's okay to commemorate virtually when you have to, and that you can reach a much wider audience. People who wouldn't normally go out to these ceremonies can now access this material online at any time. It doesn't have to be 11:00 a.m. on November 11.
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View Marie-France Lalonde Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Marie-France Lalonde Profile
2021-05-03 16:01
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With only 15 seconds left, I'm just going to say thank you very much for your presentation, and again, for the great leadership in the department.
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View Bryan May Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Bryan May Profile
2021-05-03 16:01
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Thank you, MP Lalonde.
Next we have MP Desilets for six minutes.
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View Luc Desilets Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
My regards to my colleagues and our witnesses.
It is very kind of you to take part in this exercise.
My first question is for Mr. Christopher.
Mr. Christopher, I would like to talk to you about financial support for overseas memorial sites. My office has received a request for financial support for the restoration of the Canadian memorial at Mont-des-Cats. Although it is in France and managed by a non-profit organization in France, of course, the memorial actively commemorates the participation of French Canadian soldiers in the Great War.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but the commemorative partnership program was established to assist organizations undertaking remembrance initiatives. The Veterans Affairs Canada website states that the program can provide funding to organizations in Canada and abroad. However, I did some digging and found information that the program has, until recently, excluded foreign recipients.
As a first step, can you confirm that the program does in fact provide funding for Canadian commemorative sites such as the Mont-des-Cats memorial?
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Rick Christopher
View Rick Christopher Profile
Rick Christopher
2021-05-03 16:02
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I can confirm that the program does provide support for overseas memorial sites. That was the case with the Juno Beach Centre. However, in the specific situation you just mentioned, I don't know all the details. I don't know whether an application has been submitted. I could ask my office to provide me with the details, if you wish.
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View Luc Desilets Profile
BQ (QC)
Yes, that would be very kind of you.
My understanding is that there has been a change.
Now, what were the reasons for the department expanding its support?
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Rick Christopher
View Rick Christopher Profile
Rick Christopher
2021-05-03 16:03
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Are you talking about the support for the Juno Beach Centre?
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View Luc Desilets Profile
BQ (QC)
I'm talking about the commemorative partnership program. There have been changes, as I understand it.
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Rick Christopher
View Rick Christopher Profile
Rick Christopher
2021-05-03 16:04
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Yes, that's right.
The conditions have changed, because some small communities, especially indigenous communities, cannot afford to pay for an event or a monument. They have to share the costs. For these reasons, changes have been made. In some cases, the department will cover 100% of the costs.
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View Luc Desilets Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you.
I would like to ask a question about another area.
The departmental plan of Veterans Affairs Canada earmarks $43 million for commemoration. It is a significant amount of money, and it's justified. There will no doubt be a number of commemorative activities, but I suspect that this will not be enough to meet all the demands.
There seems to be a problem with the investments in memorial restoration and conservation. Short-term assistance is often available—again, those are some good amounts—but there is rarely long-term financial security for the organizations.
Is Veterans Affairs Canada satisfied with what it is providing in terms of long-term financial security for small and large Canadian commemorative sites?
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Rick Christopher
View Rick Christopher Profile
Rick Christopher
2021-05-03 16:05
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I would like to start by saying that we get a lot of requests in a financial year. A lot of organizations have built monuments or sites with private sector donations but have run out of funds because of the pandemic or other reasons. So they apply to the department for more funding to maintain or restore monuments.
I think they are free to apply to the program, but the challenge is certainly ongoing, because monuments are being built and we wonder whose responsibility it is to maintain them. Is it the responsibility of Canadians? We have to figure out what to do in the long term. Often, organizations build monuments and the Government of Canada is left with the responsibility to maintain them. So we frequently talk to those groups to see what their long-term management plan is for the sites.
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View Luc Desilets Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you very much.
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View Bryan May Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Bryan May Profile
2021-05-03 16:07
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Excellent, everyone's staying on time today. This is fantastic.
Up next we have MP Angus for six minutes, please.
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View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
View Charlie Angus Profile
2021-05-03 16:07
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Thank you so much, Chair, and thanks so much to all of you for this presentation.
I'd like to say right off the top that I want to thank the Veterans Affairs staff in the Kirkland Lake office for the the incredible work they do. They do really important work for veterans and, to me, their professionalism and their dedication are very inspiring.
I would also like to say that I think we're in a very difficult time right now because of COVID, which has really interrupted many of the efforts of Legions and of commemorations. I think we have to really be aware of that and try to bring this back when we're coming out of COVID.
I'd like to say first off that having been at the 75th anniversary of the battle of Italy, and also in Normandy, I was incredibly moved by the welcome we received and the way the events were handled. I was at the dedication of the bridge in Caen in commemoration of Captain George Gilbert Reynolds. The response of people in Caen when they saw that we were there to commemorate a Canadian was incredibly emotional. People really felt that connection.
The reality is that we're not going to have very many more trips with the veterans, if any at all, because of their age. How do you see us maintaining these connections that we've established in the Netherlands, Holland, Belgium and Italy—connections that we've built up over the years with these visits with the veterans? How do we maintain those connections?
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Rick Christopher
View Rick Christopher Profile
Rick Christopher
2021-05-03 16:09
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First, I'll say that it was very disappointing, I think, to veterans who were slated to go to the Netherlands 75th pilgrimage. It was very disappointing to staff, who had done a lot of work and were very much looking forward to this. I will say that for this I still have some hope, maybe not for this year, but for the following year, understanding that people are getting older and have challenges.
We're there at the invitation of these groups, and certainly in terms of current discussions they're obviously taken up with other issues right now in these countries, but as we go forward, as Paul mentioned earlier, we're continuing to make sure we're not disengaging from or failing to commemorate the more traditional veterans. We will continue to have smaller visits, I think, to some of these areas, making sure we're engaging at the grassroots level with these organizations, because they are hosting us and we want to make sure we have strong ties to a number of these countries and a number of these organizations in these countries. We want to make sure we're maintaining those.
As we shift to veterans commemorations around the world, we will include Europe, for instance, and we will still commemorate the First World War and the Second World War, just in a different way.
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View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
View Charlie Angus Profile
2021-05-03 16:10
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Thank you for that.
Something one of the local Italian guides said when we were at Cassino struck me. He works with the Americans when they're there, and with the New Zealanders, the Australians and the Brits. He said that what really struck him about Canadian commemoration events is that we very much include our young people, and he thought that was really a unique and important thing for Canada.
How do we maintain these trips so that young people can see that and can be there as our goodwill ambassadors and come back with a greater understanding of the sacrifice?
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Rick Christopher
View Rick Christopher Profile
Rick Christopher
2021-05-03 16:11
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Absolutely, one of the things we're focusing on is youth engagement. One of the ways we used to do that was to have youth guides at the Vimy memorial. They were really our youth ambassadors. We have them doing other commemorative activities right now, but we want to make sure we continue to engage the youth and include them in all our commemoration activities, whether they be visits on a smaller scale or even some of the virtual things that we're doing. They've done some fantastic work for us instead of going to Vimy as guides this past year.
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View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
View Charlie Angus Profile
2021-05-03 16:11
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The question that leads me into is one on the modern veterans. For all the incredible trauma of the Second World War—I haven't been privy to the events of the First World War—we have the sense of freedom and the sense of the welcome that we get, yet many of our modern veterans have fought in much tougher and much more inhospitable territory in terms of Somalia, the Medak Pocket and Afghanistan.
Those are places that in all likelihood we're not going to be travelling to and doing big commemorations in. How do we incorporate those experiences in order for veterans, their families and Canadians to understand the trauma that happened in those places, and as a way of building a sense of national healing and also personal healing for the veterans who were in those really rough campaigns?
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Paul Thomson
View Paul Thomson Profile
Paul Thomson
2021-05-03 16:12
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If I can jump in, Mr. Chair, it's a very good question. Again, it just highlights the importance of ongoing consultation so we ensure that what we do resonates, makes a difference and recognizes younger veterans and their service and sacrifice.
We are going to continue to consult and make sure we are working that way. We are going to continue to ensure that they are part of how we construct these new commemorative activities. We're calling it a bit of co-creation, if you will. We're working with them as part of how these kinds of new things will happen.
As you know, the challenge is different. For traditional wars, it's easier. We're good at it because there was a start and an end to a conflict or war. It's a bit different with modern conflicts. We have to figure out how to better commemorate those and make them resonate with Canadians, but also how to make it work for those veterans and make sure we're doing the right thing by them as well.
I would encourage folks, committee members, if you haven't, to listen to the virtual panel we did. We did three, actually, but listen to the one from last Thursday night on digital remembrance. I think that's going to be an important facet for us going forward as well. We need to be where they are. We need to be on those digital channels we talked about earlier that those folks are on, to make sure we're resonating with them.
We have to get away from commemoration being a long ago and far away thing, and make sure it's also here and now, and relevant now. That's our challenge. We're learning and we're working, and we're iterating as we go.
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View Bryan May Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Bryan May Profile
2021-05-03 16:14
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Thank you, sir.
Up next we have, for five minutes, MP Wagantall, please.
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View Cathay Wagantall Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you so much, Chair.
Thank you for the work you're doing. I can't stress enough how important I see this being, and I really look forward to the changes. I had the amazing experience of travelling over to France for the celebration of the Battle of Amiens and Canada's 100 days, and the amazing work that our armed forces did during World War I to turn the tide. That experience was life-changing. You know, this generation is so much involved in digital platforms that I don't believe it will necessarily do what we hope it will do, to some degree, although of course I understand the need.
I'm just wondering if there's been a sense of possibly incorporating current veterans and their families into that opportunity to go to experience what I experienced. Members of Parliament go. Bureaucrats go. Those who suffered through those wars have been, but we're losing that cohort. To give them and their families a sense of what they have contributed to, based on the foundations of our armed forces, would be something to consider going forward, when we will be back to being able to travel.
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Paul Thomson
View Paul Thomson Profile
Paul Thomson
2021-05-03 16:16
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If I can jump in, Mr. Chair, it's a great point. We always need to continue to be innovative and look for ways to involve families.
One thing I'll highlight—and I think MP Angus will remember this—is that when we did our trip to Normandy we'd do burials. If we located remains and could identify the remains of a fallen soldier, we would invite the family to come with us and participate in the burial over there, and participate in our whole delegation. We did that, and we want to do more of those kinds of things. Your point is well taken, and we are continuing to look at ways to involve the families, not only in our ceremonies but also in our delegations.
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View Cathay Wagantall Profile
CPC (SK)
That's great. As I think about the fact that I got to go, I have an incredible desire to see my children and grandchildren have that experience, maybe just to light that fire. I can see how challenging it would be to do that.
In our notes, it reads, “Lastly, the 10-year strategic plan calls for the completion of the national monument to Canada's mission in Afghanistan on LeBreton Flats in Ottawa.” Where is that mission right now in terms of seeing that come to fruition? What's the date that we can tell them this is going to be completed?
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Rick Christopher
View Rick Christopher Profile
Rick Christopher
2021-05-03 16:17
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Mr. Chair, I'll start with some of the challenges we face, and I'll let Paul wrap it up.
I will tell you that we've been working hard with our partners at Heritage and the National Capital Commission. Of course, the pandemic hit. We've even done some things like use drone imagery to help the five finalists who have been selected do a virtual site visit. There have been some delays because of that, and we're working hard to make sure we get this. We continue this despite some of the challenges, and we will make sure there will be a meaningful place for veterans and all Canadians to commemorate Afghanistan.
Did you want to talk about some timelines, Paul?
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Paul Thomson
View Paul Thomson Profile
Paul Thomson
2021-05-03 16:18
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A key one is upcoming. Our phase two of the consultation work is coming. Rick alluded to the fact that we are down to five finalists who have been working diligently on their design concepts. They are going to be presenting those concepts to the Canadian public very shortly—in mid to late May.
As Rick said, unfortunately, it all has to be virtual. We're going to open it up to key stakeholders first—that is, families and others.
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View Cathay Wagantall Profile
CPC (SK)
That was my question.
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Paul Thomson
View Paul Thomson Profile
Paul Thomson
2021-05-03 16:18
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They will be able to look at the concepts and provide their feedback. Then we'll open it up to the public for the same. That's a key upcoming phase that we are getting into in terms of consultation.
Once that happens, we will select the jury. Based on all the feedback, we'll select a winner.
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View Cathay Wagantall Profile
CPC (SK)
How many years down the road is this? You must have a sense.
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Paul Thomson
View Paul Thomson Profile
Paul Thomson
2021-05-03 16:19
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In terms of picking a winner, this is all going to happen within the next three to four months—in early fall. Once the winning design architect is chosen, they'll go away and work on their actual design and the actual monument. That's going to take some time.
It's slated now for a November 2024 unveiling. Times could shift in light of the situation we're in.
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View Cathay Wagantall Profile
CPC (SK)
I have another question I would like to ask really quickly.
With this regional approach and this annual revolving calendar, I assume that's mostly around the whole digital concept. What veterans groups were engaged in the research on that decision to go with that regional approach?
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View Bryan May Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Bryan May Profile
2021-05-03 16:19
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That's your time, unfortunately, but I will allow for a quick answer please.
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Paul Thomson
View Paul Thomson Profile
Paul Thomson
2021-05-03 16:20
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We've consulted with our commemoration advisory group, which includes groups like the Royal Canadian Legion and other veterans organizations, along with seeking feedback from key stakeholders, including youth, women's groups—
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View Cathay Wagantall Profile
CPC (SK)
Are actual veterans groups considered within that stakeholder group?
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Paul Thomson
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Paul Thomson
2021-05-03 16:20
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Absolutely. Key veterans groups make up part of our commemoration advisory group.
We are going to be consulting on our plan using the new Let's Talk Veterans platform very shortly as well. We're broadening that engagement but focusing absolutely on making sure we have feedback from veterans groups.
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View Bryan May Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Bryan May Profile
2021-05-03 16:20
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Thank you very much.
MP Casey, you have five minutes, please.
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