News / Halifax

Naval commander apologizes for incident at Indigenous ceremony in Halifax on Canada Day

Newton said the men – navy, army and cadet members – would face consequences, administratively and through the military justice system, but he offered little detail.

Five men who arrived at a Halifax ceremony in matching shirts are members of the Canadian Armed Forces, a spokesperson has confirmed.

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Five men who arrived at a Halifax ceremony in matching shirts are members of the Canadian Armed Forces, a spokesperson has confirmed.

The self-proclaimed “Proud Boys” who interrupted an Indigenous ceremony on Canada Day don’t represent the views of the Canadian Armed Forces, the commander of the Maritime division of the navy said Tuesday.

Rear Admiral John Newton told reporters that he met with five of the six members of the “Proud Boys,” who approached a spiritual event on Canada Day at a statue of Halifax’s controversial founder, Edward Cornwallis. Newton called the meeting a “one-way conversation,” and said he “wasn’t looking for commentary.”

“I just told the young people that they had crossed a line where their personal beliefs, their personal ideology, which they’re allowed to have, got into the public domain,” he said.

“Their personal beliefs, whether it’s religious, political, or whether it’s even white supremacy, or whatever the Proud Boys represent, is not a shared value of the Canadian Armed Forces.”

Newton apologized on behalf of the navy, the army and the cadets.

“I’ll stand here in front of you and apologize to the Aboriginal community, to the whole public community that feels offended by the actions of fellow Canadians who wear the uniform,” he said.

Rear Admiral John Newton speaks to reporters about the

Zane Woodford/Metro

Rear Admiral John Newton speaks to reporters about the "Proud Boys" in Halifax on Tuesday. (Zane Woodford/Metro)

Newton said the men — navy, army and cadet members — would face consequences, administratively and through the military justice system, but he offered little detail.

“I’m not going to speak on who the members are, or what those consequences are, but you’ll have to trust me as a leader who’s always very open about these things, that this has the full attention of the Canadian Armed Forces leadership,” Newton said.

Late Tuesday evening, Chief of the Defence Staff  Gen. Jonathan Vance put out a statement saying the members involved will be removed from training and duties while an investigation is carried out.

“Their future in the military is certainly in doubt,” Gen. Vance said. “What happened in Halifax is deplorable.”

Newton said earlier in the day that figuring out the consequences will need time.  “It needs the full exposure of investigation and it needs the ability of the young people to talk, and allow their voice to be heard.”

Newton wouldn’t say for sure, however, whether Indigenous voices would be heard. He said he had not spoken to any of the people present at the ceremony on Saturday, and when asked whether the Indigenous community would be consulted about the impact of the “Proud Boys’” actions, he said he’d take it into consideration.

“That’s probably a very appropriate thing to put on the table in due course,” he said.

A video of the Canada Day incident at the Cornwallis statue shows five men interacting with spectators at the ceremony.

“This is a British colony,” one of the men says in the video. “You’re recognizing the heritage and so are we.” Asked if the group is associated with an organization, one of the men in the video says,

“The Proud Boys, Maritime chapter.”

With files from the Canadian Press

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