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Record of Discussion - Commemoration Advisory Group

23 April 2021
10:00 -11:30 (EDT)
Virtual via MS Teams

In Attendance

Commemoration Advisory Group Members

  • Dr. Steve Harris, Directorate of History and Heritage, Department of National Defence, (Co-chair)
  • Derrill Henderson, National Council of Veteran Associations in Canada & Hong Kong Veterans Association of Canada
  • Captain (Retired) Ray Kokkonen, Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Association
  • Captain (Retired) Danny Martin, Royal Canadian Legion
  • Lieutenant Colonel Jim Mills, Team Lead National Commemorations, Canadian Joint Operations Command, Canadian Armed Forces
  • Major (Retired) Gerry Wharton, Army, Navy, Air Force Veterans in Canada
  • Dr. Lee Windsor, University of New Brunswick Gregg Centre

Veterans Affairs Canada Officials

  • Paul Thomson, Director General, Commemoration Division (Co-chair)
  • Rob Walker, Director, Policy, Learning and Recognition, Commemoration Division
  • Shannon Hartigan, A/Manager, Policy and Planning, Commemoration Division
  • Charlotte Bastien, Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic Oversight and Communications
  • Faith McIntyre, Director General, Communications Division 
  • Sylvie Thibodeau-Sealy, Director, Stakeholder Engagement and Outreach, Communications Division
  • Karen Rose, Senior Analyst, Stakeholder Engagement and Outreach, Communications Division
  • Samuel Duguay, Project Officer, Stakeholder Engagement and Outreach, Communications Division

Office of the Minister of Veterans Affairs

  • John Embury, Director of Communications
  • Sarah Cozzi, Director of Policy
  • Andrea Waselnuk, Policy Advisor, Stakeholders and Events


  • Jamie Morse, Office of the Veterans Ombud

Opening Remarks

  • The VAC and member Co-chairs welcomed the members and thanked everyone for joining the meeting.
  • The VAC Co-chair gave a brief overview of the agenda items, including an update on the renewal of advisory groups, an overview of the CAG recommendations, and the Commemoration 10 Year Strategic Plan. 

Update on Renewal of Advisory Groups

Director General, Communications thanked the group for their continued dedication, passion and work on behalf of Veterans and their families, and spoke to advisory group renewal:

  • Renewing group membership will allow VAC to learn from new perspectives and consider diverse opinions.
  • The intent is that each group would have approximately 12 members representing a broad cross section of Veterans, Veterans organizations, non-profit, public and private sector associations as well as underrepresented groups and observer status members.
  • For current members, the Stakeholder Engagement and Outreach team will confirm intent to remain and those who are interested in remaining will be asked to provide their resume.
  • New members will be appointed by the Minister through an open and transparent application process where a Notice of Opportunity will be posted to fill positions. Candidates interested in applying will be asked to complete an application form and include a cover letter and resume.
  • The plan is to launch the application process and to post the notice mid-May for four weeks. Applications will be assessed and appointments made, with intent for advisory groups to resume meeting in the fall.
  • A pause on the Advisory group formal engagement would occur once the renewal process is launched until the refresh which would occur likely in early Fall.
  • Members are encouraged to continue to communicate with the department and the Minister’s office as needed at any point in time.

Overview of the CAG recommendations

  • VAC is currently tracking two CAG priorities which are still in process. The first is the National Monument to Canada’s mission in Afghanistan and the second is the Commemoration 10 Year Strategic Plan. 
  • The National Monument is entering the second consultation phase. The five finalists submitted their design concepts to the jury in April and will be presenting to the jurors in May.
  • Following these presentations to the jurors, a survey with the design proposals will be posted for feedback to stakeholders and the general public. VAC will do outreach to key target groups such as Families of the Fallen, Veterans, Canadian Armed Forces members, and other key stakeholders.
  • The survey will be available until June 9 and is lead by Canadian Heritage (PCH).
  • The jury is planning to make their final decision in July.
  • The Monument is scheduled to be completed by 2024.

Commemoration 10 Year Strategic Plan

  • VAC Co-chair thanked members for all their input on the Strategic Plan dating back to an initial meeting in 2019. Many of the ideas and feedback were incorporated in the draft Plan. The importance of the CAG members continued support of the Strategic Plan was noted along with the need for their continued feedback as work progresses.
  • VAC will continue to seek feedback and consult with Veterans, key stakeholder groups and Canadians on the plan.  
  • Members thanked the VAC Co-chair for the opportunity to be consulted and appreciated seeing their feedback incorporated into the Strategic Plan.  
  • The new online platform “Let’s talk Veterans” is a new way to communicate with stakeholders and seek their feedback. VAC will be releasing a survey specific to the Strategic Plan and another on Disability Benefits Applications. CAG members will be encouraged to participate and share broadly with their networks.


  • Analytics of social media posts show that stories on modern Veterans and their experiences are well received by the public and are generating a lot of interest and engagement.
  • With pandemic restrictions, VAC has had to focus on more digital initiatives, one of which is virtual panels. VAC has hosted two panels so far, and the third on digital commemoration and best practices is scheduled for 29 April.
  • The sixth and final Caribou Monument has been installed in Gallipoli, Turkey, thereby completing the Trail of the Caribou. The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador had issued a press release.

Closing Remarks

  • VAC co-chair thanked everyone for coming together and for their participation and feedback in helping drive this work forward.
  • As the COVID-19 situation persists, we will continue to adapt and release innovative virtual commemoration efforts.
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