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

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

General Jonathan Vance, Chief of the Defence Staff ~

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:

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:

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.
General Jonathan Vance
Chief of the Defence Staff

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