Memorial Day meetings interrupted in British Columbia

Insp. Adam MacIntosh says when people choose to interrupt those who observe Memorial Day, it’s “too much of a step.”

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The British Columbia branch of the Royal Canadian Legion says it is “unfortunate” that people with political agendas have chosen Remembrance Day to interrupt those who wanted to honor the sacrifice of military veterans.

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The legion’s BC / Yukon Command issued a statement on Friday criticizing protests on Memorial Day in Kelowna and Kamloops, as well as “the disfigurement and vandalism” of a monument in Cranbrook.

“We are saddened that anyone would feel the need to be distracted from the sacrifice of our veterans and their families with political agendas. Especially on Remembrance Day,” said Val McGregor, president of the Royal Canadian Legion’s BC / Yukon Command.

“We are the custodians of memory in Canada,” McGregor said. “As long as we exist, we will maintain the tradition of remembrance to ensure that the fallen of Canada will not be forgotten.”

The legion statement says COVID-19 pandemic restrictions have meant changes to how veterans are honored, including smaller or virtual ceremonies and even canceled events.

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“It is unfortunate that some have taken this as an opportunity to distract others from mourning, remembrance and their intention to honor our veterans,” the statement says.

It says the protests in Kelowna and Kamloops – and the vandalism in Cranbrook – are “unacceptable”.

RCMP in Kelowna said they are investigating a report of 75 to 100 protesters at the city’s graveyard cemetery who arrived just before 11am on Memorial Day.

Insp. Adam MacIntosh said when people choose to interrupt those who observe Memorial Day, that is “a step too far.”

Mayor Colin Basran said the city held a small guest-only ceremony he attended at a local legion branch because of the COVID-19 infection rate in the community.

An event at the cenotaph, where thousands would normally attend Memorial Day ceremonies, was not organized by the city, but many veterans went there and became involved in the protest against vaccination against COVID-19, he said.

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“My reaction is anger, frustration,” he said. “The word I use is ‘reprehensible.’ This was exactly the wrong time and wrong place for this kind of protest. (It is) completely disrespectful to our veterans. ”

Kamloops lawyer Jay Michi said he and his two young daughters left what he thought was a Remembrance Day ceremony in the city’s downtown park after it turned out to be a protest against BC’s vaccine mandate.

He said he arrived at Riverside Park believing he was attending the city’s official Remembrance Day ceremony, which was actually held at a downtown cenotaph as just a guest event.

Michi said he was aware he may have gone to the wrong place when a young man started reading a statement against the government’s vaccination policy before another man grabbed the microphone and used obscenities to complain about vaccines against COVID-19.

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“Someone almost punched someone,” he said. “Someone else said,‘ Now isn’t the time, ’and this really great guy said,‘ Well, we agree with him, ’” he said. “It was very, very aggressive, and I just thought, ‘This is kind of crazy, I’m getting my kids out of here.'”

In Cranbrook, the city said someone vandalized its tombstone on Memorial Day, but it would not say how the monument was disfigured.

“As a community, we are beyond disappointed by the disrespectful actions of those responsible for disfiguring such an important monument on such an important day for all Canadians,” it said in a statement.

It said officials were able to remove the graffiti to allow Memorial Day ceremonies to continue.

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