Afghanistan vets still not part of National War Memorial - for now

A detail from the War Memorial in Ottawa. (JOHN MAJOR/QMI AGENCY FILE)

A detail from the War Memorial in Ottawa. (JOHN MAJOR/QMI AGENCY FILE)

Jessica Murphy, Parliamentary Bureau

, Last Updated: 3:35 PM ET

OTTAWA - A push to include modern conflicts on the National War Memorial doesn't seem to be gaining traction with the federal government.

Veterans groups and opposition MPs have been lobbying the Conservative government to include a line - 'In the service of Canada' - on downtown Ottawa's cenotaph so it embraces all fallen soldiers, a line taken from a book of remembrance kept in Parliament's Peace Tower to honour those died while serving their country.

Canadian Veterans Advocacy's Mike Blais says, as it stands, the 21-metre tall monument built to commemorate the First World War and later rededicated to include Second World War and Korea vets, could be considered "exclusionary" to those who served in the peacekeeping era and Afghanistan.

"It's not appropriate when you put it in perspective of the 'one veteran, one standard,' and the standard of sacrifice is equal in all generations. I think this goes a long way into resolving this and acknowledging everyone who served," he said.

Military historian Jack Granatstein, with the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute, argues that adding the simple line to the monument could go a long way towards maintaining the prominence of Remembrance Day as vets of earlier conflicts die off.

But he notes he's heard there's some opposition within both National Defence (DND) and at the Royal Canadian Legion to idea of including modern conflicts on the monument.

"I think with some members, it's a sense that the world wars were such a different character than everything else we've done it kind of debases the currency a bit to include the other conflicts," he said.

"That may be an unfair characterization but that's the sense I have received. In DND it's probably a bit of that as well, plus the sense Afghanistan is our war for the current generation and should be commemorated specially."

Still, the Legion has backed the initiative for years, a cause taken up a few months ago by NDP veterans affairs critic Peter Stoffer, who says the current Conservative government's plan to build a new monument to soldiers killed in Afghanistan leaves out too many soldiers who served in overseas conflicts.

"If you just put something for Afghanistan, you will unfortunately offend many people that served in Bosnia, and you will offend many that served in the Middle East. And what about the peacekeepers? What about them?" he said.

Ottawa does already have a separate monument to peacekeepers who served overseas, and the Conservative government is looking to build a memorial to those who served in Afghanistan after the mission wraps in 2014.

And an Afghanistan Repatriation Memorial is being commemorated by the public in Trenton, Ont., on Saturday.

Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney says the national memorial is meant to reflect all veterans and "we have to look at ways we can make it happen" but that there are no changes currently on the agenda.

Thousands of Canadians travel to the monument each year to pay their respects during the Remembrance Day national ceremony.


Photos