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Record of Discussion - Commemoration Advisory Group

21 July 2022
13:30-15:00 (ET)

In Attendance

Commemoration Advisory Group Members

  • Andree Gracie
  • Anne Hurtubise
  • Caitlin Bailey, Vimy Foundation
  • Captain (Retired) Danny Martin, Royal Canadian Legion
  • Captain (Retired) Ray Kokkonen, Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Association
  • Derrill Henderson, National Council of Veteran Associations in Canada and Hong Kong Veterans Association of Canada
  • Steve Harris, Directorate of History and Heritage, Department of National Defence
  • John Moses, Canadian Museum of History
  • Major (Retired) Gerry Wharton, Army, Navy & Air Force Veterans in Canada
  • Robert Jardine


  • Simon Coakeley
  • Lee Windsor, University of New Brunswick Gregg Centre
  • Jamie Morse, Office of the Veterans Ombudsman

Office of the Minister of Veterans Affairs

  • John Embury, Director of Communications, Minister’s Office

Veterans Affairs Canada Officials

  • Rob Walker, Director Policy, Learning and Recognition, Commemoration Division (A/Co-chair)
  • Shannon Hartigan, Manager, Stakeholder Engagement and Outreach, Communications Division (notes)
  • Mary McQuaid, Strategic Advisor, Commemoration Division (observer)

Opening Remarks

(Members of all six Ministerial Advisory Groups met in plenary and the Deputy Minister of Veterans Affairs brought greetings. Members were then transferred to the meeting of the Commemoration Advisory Group.)

  • The Acting Director General, Communications welcomed the participants to the virtual meeting and introduced the Deputy Minister of Veterans Affairs.
  • The Deputy Minister welcomed the members and acknowledged that the land from which he was speaking is unceded Mi’kmaq territory he also acknowledged the ancestral and unceded territory of all Inuit, Métis, and First Nations people and took a moment to recognize the importance of these lands that we all call home.
  • He spoke to the renewal of the advisory groups that was launched in 2021 and the great response with over 125 applications. He indicated that there was a greater focus on diversity and that today we kick off a new series of meetings with 33 new members and many members that are continuing.
  • The Deputy spoke to the goals of the six Ministerial Advisory Groups and highlighted the focus on Veterans and their families. He reinforced the members roles and responsibilities to provide advice, insight, and recommendations to the Minister of Veterans Affairs. He also indicated that the Minister is looking forward to gathering with the members in the fall.
  • He noted the importance of hearing from the members and the community in order to understand the issues and areas where we need to improve. He talked about how the advice from the advisory groups has influenced many significant Government of Canada initiatives, including improvements in service delivery, mental health supports, supports for families and survivors, and reduced complexity in accessing benefits.
  • He thanked everyone for their participation.
  • The VAC Co-chairs were introduced and the members were transferred to their individual advisory group meeting.

Commemoration Advisory Group

Roundtable Introductions

  • The VAC Co-chair opened the meeting and began the roundtable introductions.
  • Each member introduced themselves and provided brief background information.

Review of the Terms of Reference

  • The VAC Co-chair lead the review of the Terms of Reference and highlighted the following key elements:
    • Mandate
    • Role and expectations
    • Code of Conduct
    • Potential requirements for a confidentiality agreement as per updates made by the OMVA in the spring of 2021
    • Selection of a member Co-chair (timing and transition period)
  • The VAC Co-chair opened the floor for questions.

Commemoration Updates

  • The VAC Co-chair summarized the key findings and highlights from the 2021 consultations in support of the 2020-2030 Strategic Plan for Commemoration. CAG members would receive the report by email following the meeting. The report will be published on the VAC website and on Let’s Talk Veterans on Tuesday July 26.
  • This year, VAC held an event to highlight the 25th anniversary of the CAF response to the 1997 Red River flooding. This is part of the Department’s increased focus on domestic operations.
  • This August, VAC will be commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Dieppe Raid with events in Canada (Windsor, Ontario) and overseas in Dieppe, France.
  • VAC is in the early planning stages to recognize the 25th anniversary of the CAF response to the 1998 ice storm later January 2023.

Forward Agenda

  • The VAC Co-chair led an overview of potential forward agenda items that reflect departmental priority areas.
    • The Minister’s mandate letter commitment: Ensure that modern Veterans, as well as women, Indigenous, racialized and LGBTQ2 Veterans from all conflicts are recognized and commemorated, and that the valuable. contributions of Canadian Armed Forces Veterans who have served in domestic operations are recognized.
    • Recognition of Persian Gulf War (1990-91) Veterans.
    • Outreach to underrepresented Veterans/organizations – to ensure awareness about CPP and the Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation Award.
    • Connecting with youth.
  • Other suggestions shared by CAG members:
    • Indigenous recognition.
      • There could be partnership between CAG and Indigenous Veterans organizations.
      • Canada’s two largely Indigenous formations of the Great War were the 107th “Timber Wolf Battalion”, CEF, recruited in and around Winnipeg, MB; and the 114th Battalion, CEF, “Brock’s Rangers”, recruited in and around Brantford, ON, including the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory.
      • Traditional commemoration approaches often single out exceptional service of individual Indigenous people. There is an appetite to learn about the impact on the home front of volunteers leaving their communities to fight in the wars and the linkages between residential school experience and later military enlistment.
    • Engaging younger people:
      • We need to consider how commemoration is no longer just bricks and mortar or parades. We need to deliver commemoration in a completely different way to help today’s younger people absorb and make sense of the wars and conflicts that took place in a very different era.

Next Step and Closing Remarks

  • The VAC Co-chair provided next steps, including the process for signing the Code of Conduct, consider putting their name forward to act as a Co-chair, and dates of future meetings.
  • VAC Co-chair thanked members for their participation.
  • Representative from Office of the Minister of Veterans Affairs concluded by thanking advisory group members for being part of the CAG and their commitment to share their expertise and their interest. He noted that a recent organizational change within Veterans Affairs will likely be beneficial to the work and priorities of the CAG. The commemoration and communications functions have been brought together under the leadership of Assistant Deputy Minister Amy Meunier. This will allow greater opportunities for the teams to collaborate and improve our commemorative efforts. In addition, VAC has already started implementing advice and other take-aways from CAG and the consultation. We are already seeing good results, based on social media analytics.
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