Cenotaph and Afghan War dates

In this blog I am sharing the email I have developed that summarizes why Council has made the correct decision regarding the Afghan War dates on the Cenotaph in Grand Parade. I think it is unfortunate that we are debating this for the third time on Tuesday.

Thank you for the email. It is not the first I have received, so I have assembled this response to try and cover off on the varied concerns I have received about this sensitive issue.

To start, the dates of Afghanistan conflict was added to the Cenotaph inscription in 2015, because of a motion I made in 2014. It was added to the St. Paul’s side where there is a listing of conflicts including World War Two, Korea and now Afghanistan. The addition was well-received by veterans, and money is not the issue, we required no Federal funding to add the dates. Here’s a story about the addition. https://globalnews.ca/news/2278875/grand-parade-cenotaph-will-soon-include-afghanistan-war/

The Afghanistan dates on our cenotaph are listed with the others on the church side but were not added on the statue side because in our staff and Council’s opinion there isn’t room. The sad reality is that when the cenotaph was erected, no one gave much thought to adding future conflicts to it, likely because society was so devastated by World War One that another war was unimaginable to many (sadly that hasn’t proven to be the case). HRM didn’t reach its decision to not include the dates of Afghanistan in bronze on the statue side lightly. The cenotaph is a historic monument and HRM must carefully consider modifications to it. Staff extensively consulted with military groups, including the Legion, and the conclusion was ultimately that the text on the front “In Honour of those who served. In memory of those who fell” includes everyone.

I think it is important to note that the Afghanistan dates are not on the front of the National War Memorial. When I stopped to pay my respects there when I was in Ottawa a year ago last summer I watched the changing of the guard (it was the Navy’s turn that week) and noted that only 1914-1918 are on the front. (video here: https://www.facebook.com/wayemason/videos/1783809011646537/​)

Our National War Memorial had the exact same challenge, with the more prominent statue side of the monument having dates for just World War One with World War Two and Korea on the immediately adjacent sides. When it came time to add Afghanistan, the federal government placed the conflict on the other side of the monument along with the Boer War and an inscription “In Service to Canada” was added to the front.

Halifax staff and Council did consult with Veterans Affairs, Canadian Forces, and the Legion regarding appropriate commemoration of the Afghanistan War on the cenotaph. Note also that the Legion is against adding dates for specific conflicts (see story here https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2014/11/11/war_memorial_changes_stir_controversy.html)

Sooner or later, Canada will likely be involved in another war and we’ll lose people overseas. Eventually we were going to have to move to the other side. The best advice is that time is now. If you would like more information on what went into HRM’s decision, here’s the staff report: https://www.halifax.ca/sites/default/files/documents/city-hall/regional-council/180327rc1413.pdf

I hope this email helps explain how we landed on our decision and why we think it is the right way to honour our veterans.