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An open letter to National Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan concerning the Afghan War Memorial

Toronto Sun, Edmonton Sun

24 May 2019

This is the text of an email that I sent to Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan:

Minister,

I am incredibly insulted that the Afghanistan Memorial was officially opened in secret at National Defence Headquarters (NDHQ), in an area that is not accessible to the general public. Not one currently serving Canadian Forces member or veteran, including Afghanistan War veterans, or families of the serving members or veterans, were invited to the dedication, nor even told about it until after the fact.

Even the Prime Minister, who has never met a photo-op he didn’t run directly towards, whether wearing a shirt or not, wasn’t there, something that I find completely disgraceful. However, I must admit I’m not surprised, seeing as he has shown nothing but contempt for the Canadian Forces, taking after his father, of course.

I’m a retired Royal Canadian Navy reservist and although I didn’t serve in Afghanistan, I proudly support those who did. We must never forget the sacrifices of those who served in Afghanistan, especially those who made the supreme sacrifice. By hiding the Afghanistan Memorial away at NDHQ, your government has created the impression that it wishes to forget about the war and those sacrifices.

As you are an Afghanistan veteran yourself, you must be incredibly insulted too. There is absolutely no reason for this slap in the face to all who have served their country and continue to serve. As the Minister of National Defence, I want to know how you could let this happen? I know your government has been busy dealing with issues related to the SNC-Lavalin scandal, throwing two female cabinet ministers out of caucus and throwing Vice-Admiral Mark Norman under the bus (and attempting to throw him is prison), but your conduct has been extremely disappointing in this matter.

I wanted to use the word disgraceful, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt that you were ordered to stay out of it and keep your mouth shut. You could do the honourable thing and quickly rectify this unbelievably stupid decision, along with providing a reasonable explanation as to why you didn’t publicly call out the Prime Minister or whomever approved this insulting action.

I understand the Prime Minister has ensured the public that the memorial will be accessible to anyone who requests to visit it, but that is not good enough. The Afghanistan Memorial must be placed in an easily accessible public place, preferably in the War Museum, as I understand it needs to be kept indoors, or in a specially constructed shelter at the National War Memorial that will provide it with the protection needed.

I await your response to let me know when the re-location will be completed and when this re-dedication ceremony will be held so that I and other veterans and members of the public can have the opportunity to attend.

Bruce Forsyth, CD

Leading Seaman (Ret’d)

Royal Canadian Navy Reserve

Bruce Forsyth is a freelance writer and the webmaster for www.militarybruce.com.

******************************************************************

This is the letter I got back from the staff in the Minister’s office and my response back:

From: DND_MND@forces.gc.ca <DND_MND@forces.gc.ca>
Sent: June 27, 2019 3:05 PM
To: Bruce Forsyth
Subject: RE: Afghanistan Memorial at NDHQ  

Dear Leading Seaman (Ret’d) Forsyth:  

I am writing in response to your email addressed to the Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of National Defence, about public access to the Afghanistan Memorial Hall. The Minister has asked the Department to reply on his behalf. I apologize for the delay.  

Let me begin by saying that we owe the family and friends of our fallen, all who served in Afghanistan, and Canadians an apology for not properly communicating the details of the opening of the Afghanistan Memorial Hall. As the Minister of National Defence and the Chief of the Defence Staff said, we sincerely apologize.  

Several locations were considered before the decision was made to display the Memorial at the National Defence Headquarters (Carling) in Ottawa. This location was chosen to keep the monument safe from the elements and from vandalism. It was important that the Memorial be accorded an appropriate venue in which it could be best preserved.  

The Afghanistan Memorial Hall was opened with a dedication service on May 13, 2019. After the service, families of the fallen were officially invited to visit the Hall and the Cenotaph memorial.  

The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) is now organizing scheduled opportunities for all who wish to visit the Hall. CAF personnel will guide each public visit and provide visitors with information on Canada’s military contribution in Afghanistan. Individuals may schedule a visit by sending an email to VisitorAfghanMemorial-VisiteurMemorialAfghan@forces.gc.ca.

The Government of Canada is also planning to build a national monument in honour of Canada’s mission in Afghanistan at a central location in downtown Ottawa.   I hope this information is helpful. Please allow me to take this opportunity to thank you for your military service.  

Yours sincerely,

Isabelle Daoust, Defence Corporate Secretary

From: Bruce Forsyth
Sent: July 1, 2019 7:16 AM
To: DND_MND@forces.gc.ca
Cc: Erin.OToole@parl.gc.ca
Subject: Re: Afghanistan Memorial at NDHQ

Ms. Daoust,

Thank you for writing back.  I do understand that your department has been getting a lot of blowback from this ill-advised decision.  It’s not too late to rectify this debacle.

I must still disagree with the decision to keep the Memorial at NDHQ, even with escorted visits for the public to view it.  As I said in my original letter, I feel a suitable place would be in the War Museum, perhaps in the main lobby for maximum exposure to the general public, especially for those who wish to visit the Memorial but do not necessarily wish to tour the museum itself.  This would accomplish two additional things, that being keeping it in a safe, sheltered facility to ensure it doesn’t get damaged by the elements or vandals, and it may encourage more people to tour the War Museum itself once inside the building. 

I hope your department will still consider this suggestion.

Thank you,

Bruce Forsyth, CD

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/an-open-letter-to-national-defence-minister-harjit-sajjan-concerning-the-afghan-war-memorial/

3 comments

  1. Bruce Forsyth

    Hi Dan,

    I’m glad that you liked the article. I’m hoping the Minister will respond personally, but I’m not holding my breath.

    Bruce

    Bruce. That was an awesome article. Shame on the MND for not making this a horrible situation. I spent30 years in uniform and lost a few good acquaintances over there. He did take credit for organizing stuff and he never did so he gets a failing grade!!!!! And the Turd’s old man never did anything for us!!!!!!! He will be gone in Oct, god willing!!!!!!!

    Dan

  2. Bruce Forsyth

    Hi Charlie,

    I’m glad that you liked the article. I’m hoping the Minister will respond personally, but I’m not holding my breath.

    Bruce

    Hello , I read the editorial in the Toronto Sun, I agree it’s a disgrace, Trudeau is worse than one can even imagine as a PM of a G7 country he is an activist not a leader of a major economic country , sad to all the men and women who serve. The media made Harper the boogeyman but his steady hand is really shown to be quite impressive compared to the ex part time drama teacher , every file Trudeau has screwed up, think about that..,really think about that and see if you can find anything he did right …..

    Take care and all the best

    Charlie Kantor

  3. Bruce Forsyth

    Hi Ron,

    Thank you for your support. I’ve been getting a lot of supportive e-mail messages from that column and not ONE negative e-mail, so far anyway. Nothing so far from the Minister himself.

    Dearest Bruce.
    Like you and many other Canadians we were astonished and yes, disgusted how the Afghanistan War Memorial was set up and secretly handled, yet another slap in the face to all veterans across Canada.! Thank you for writing this letter and making this known as so many like me would not have known about this? Please keep spreading this news and making it known as this is yet more proof why this government has got to go! If you would allow it, would you allow me to copy this letter and send it to our local newspaper as I feel strongly that every ‘little’ Canadian needs to know about this travesty? Like his father who I read somewhere road around Montreal during WW2 wearing a German Helmet on his motorcycle…I am not sure though where I read that, but like his father this Trudeau has no respect for our Military and I am but only one who feels his Minister of Defence although a ‘veteran’ doesn’t either! I thank you for writing this open and honest letter and for maintaining this site. I will try to donate to your efforts. Thank you.
    Ron Stewart

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