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May message from Michael Chong

Web posted on May 02, 2006

Dear Editor:

I would like to take this opportunity to explain the Government of Canada's policy regarding national remembrance and repatriation of our fallen soldiers. These issues have raised the passions of many. There is no greater loss to a family than that of a loved one and there is no greater loss to the Canadian Forces family than that of one of its own. The contributions and sacrifices of our soldiers, in defence of Canada, will never be forgotten. We need to find balance between the need for the nation to mourn and the need to respect the privacy of grieving families.

In the event of a Canadian Forces' operational death, Department of National Defence protocol stipulates that flags will be half-masted within the operational base, within the home base of the member and at National Defence Headquarters, from the day of death until sunset on the day of the funeral. Also, all flags within the service (Navy, Army, or Air Force) of the member will be half-masted from sunrise to sunset on the day of the funeral.

Our national tradition, with respect to those who have died in the service of our country, has been to honour all of them equally on November 11th, Remembrance Day. On this day, the national flag is lowered to half-mast on all federal buildings and establishments throughout Canada, including the Peace Tower, from sunrise to sunset. This policy ensures that our nation equally and non-discriminately respects and honours all of our fallen service members. This has been our national tradition for over 80 years.

The previous government broke with this long-standing tradition that confidently brought Canada through its wartime history. Instead, it decided on an ad-hoc basis to lower the flag of the Peace Tower. This inconsistent approach unfairly distinguished some who died in Afghanistan from those who have died in current and previous operations, like Bosnia, Korea and World War Two. Lowering the flag on the Peace Tower on November 11th ensures that all of Canada's fallen soldiers are justly honoured, regardless of the conflict in which they served. This is a decision that is supported by the Royal Canadian Legion and the chair of the National Council for Veteran Associations, representing 55 veterans groups in Canada

Some families of fallen soldiers have indicated they would welcome the media at the repatriation ceremony, where the bodies first arrive back on Canadian soil. Other families have indicated they would like it to remain a private affair, a view also held by many soldiers, who see it as a time for war widows and families to receive their deceased loved ones in private. Our Government took the decision that the repatriation ceremony in Trenton should be a private affair, in keeping with our primary focus of supporting the grieving families in this time of need.

It is not our intention to keep the public unaware of a soldier's death. When a soldier dies overseas, Canadians, through the media, are made aware of this event, since they are embedded with our soldiers. The media is also given full access to the ramp ceremony, held in theatre prior to the repatriation of the bodies back to Canada. This is also where comrades of the fallen soldiers will give their final salute, as the casket is loaded onto an aircraft for the final journey home. It is up to the families to decide if they would like media at their memorial service. Some families will choose to have a public funeral; others will choose to have a private funeral. In both cases, the Department of National Defence is there to assist the families in any way. However, at the repatriation ceremony in Trenton, the place where the bodies first arrive back in Canada and where for the first time the various families gather to receive their deceased loved ones, our Government took the decision to keep this private, in the interest of all the families. The new policy respects families who wish to receive their deceased loved ones and grieve in private.

Our government will not play politics with these issues. We will carefully honour and respect the memory of all fallen soldiers, respecting Canadian tradition and putting the needs of all families first.

- Michael Chong


Michael Chong is the MP for Wellington-Halton Hills. He is President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, and Minister for Sport. To contact Michael, call 1-866-878-5556 or e-mail chongm@parl.gc.ca.


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Michael Chong Monthly News Letter
( October 17, 2006 )

July message from Michael Chong
( July 21, 2006 )

April message from Michael Chong
( April 03, 2006 )