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Record of Discussion - Commemoration Advisory Group

27 October 2022
12:00 - 14:30 (ET)

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


  • Derrill Henderson, National Council of Veteran Associations in Canada and Hong Kong Veterans Association of Canada
  • Major (Retired) Gerry Wharton, Army, Navy & Air Force Veterans in Canada
  • Simon Coakeley
  • Lieutenant-Colonel Wallace Noseworthy, Canadian Joint Operations Command

Office of the Minister of Veterans Affairs

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

Veterans Affairs Canada Officials

  • Paul Thomson, Director General, Commemoration (Co-chair)
  • Gabrielle Kitson, Executive Assistant, Commemoration Division
  • Sylvie Thibodeau-Sealy, Director, Policy, Learning and Recognition, Commemoration Division


  • John Desrosiers, Director, European Operations, Commemoration Division
  • Amanda Brazeau, Director, Commemoration Operations, Commemoration Division


  • Jamie Morse, Office of the Veterans Ombudsperson

Opening Remarks (Plenary)

(Members of all six Ministerial Advisory Groups met in plenary and both the Minster and the Deputy Minister of Veterans Affairs brought greetings and provided updates. The Assistant Deputy Minister, Commemoration and Public Affairs discussed procedural items and how to conduct the vote for a Member Co-chair.)

  • 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 thanked the members for their understanding given that the meeting was rescheduled from September to October. He also acknowledged the value of stakeholder feedback and highlighted the important role of advisory group members to contribute and influence positive change. The Deputy Minister then introduced Minister Lawrence MacAulay.

Remarks from Minister MacAulay

  • Minister MacAulay welcomed members, thanked them for their commitment, and acknowledged that the work of the advisory groups will make a real difference. He also highlighted that the advisory groups are a space to speak freely and share thoughts and ideas to help the Department live up to its commitment to respect and deliver care to Veterans and their families.
  • The Minister acknowledged the ongoing priority of reducing the backlog, which has decreased by 50 percent since 2020. He also highlighted the recent 43 million dollar investment to address the evolving needs of Veterans.
  • The Minister thanked those who helped secure Juno Beach as commemorative grounds and acknowledged their importance for education.
  • He highlighted the success of the new Mental Health Benefit, which offers automatic support to Veterans to ensure they receive the help where and when they need it.
  • The Minister highlighted key priorities from his mandate letter, including improving performance and client experience for Veterans and their families, ensuring Veterans have access to benefits and services, recognizing and commemorating the efforts of Veterans with a focus on underrepresented Veterans, addressing Veterans homelessness, and launching the Veterans employment strategy.
  • The Minister acknowledged that there is a lot more work to do, and that he and the Department value the Ministerial advisory groups as key assets in ensuring progress continues. He acknowledged the evolving needs of the Veteran community and wants to hear from members on how the Department can best serve Veterans and their families. The advisory groups were created to provide the Department insight, advice, and recommendations on the issues facing Veterans and their families, so it’s important that members speak freely. He then thanked members for their commitment and contributions.

Closing Plenary Remarks

  • The Deputy Minister thanked Minister MacAulay and then provided some additional updates and recent developments, specifically the unveiling of the final bronze caribou monument was unveiled in Gallipoli in September.
  • He addressed a recent news story on Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) and underlined that the Department took immediate action to apologize to the Veteran and immediately investigate.
  • The Deputy then provided updates on recent senior appointments at VAC, including Ken MacKillop, the new Associate Deputy Minister, and Pierre Tessier the new Assistant Deputy Minister of Strategic Policy, Planning, and Performance.
  • The Assistant Deputy Minister, Commemoration and Public Affairs, then spoke to procedural items concerning the terms of reference for the advisory groups and the in-camera selection of member co-chairs. She also referenced the Code of Conduct which members are expected to adhere to.
  • Advisory Group members were then transferred to their individual breakout rooms.

In camera selection of Member Co-chair

The meeting began with an in-camera (members only) session to select a member Co-chair. Lee Windsor was selected to serve for a two year period as stated in the Terms of Reference.

Opening Remarks

VAC Co-chair welcomed the members, VAC Directors and congratulated the new member co-chair. The VAC Co-chair gave a brief overview of the agenda items, including National level recognition of significant Canadian participation in war or military conflicts and the plans for Veterans Week 2022.

National War Memorial

VAC Co-chair gave a background on the National War Memorial and how it symbolizes the sacrifice of all Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel who have served Canada in the cause of peace and freedom.

The members were solicited for their Input on how to incorporate National level recognition of significant Canadian participation in war or military conflicts and the criteria that would merit recognition on the National War Memorial in Ottawa. Also seeking input on how post Korean War Veterans up to the present day could be recognized from a commemoration perspective.


  • The importance of those who don’t have the chance to physically visit a loved ones grave and what the National War Memorial means to them. The memorial becomes a place where folks can pay homage to loved ones.
  • The memorial should match the intensity, longevity and the degree of sacrifice of the five military wars/conflicts currently inscribed on the monument (South African War, First World War, Second World War, Korean War, Afghanistan mission). This should include a broad ranging support from the Veteran community and Canadian public.
  • The recognition that the memorial while often known as a place to memorialize loss, needs to also be a space for all Veterans to feel their service is recognized including missions that thankfully brought no loss of life. This is particularly important during Veterans Week.
  • The discussions also included:
    • The opportunity to reach new audiences with digital and virtual content
    • Opportunities to create a more interpretive experience with panels as you approach the National War Memorial
    • Emphasis on more interactive activities for new learning experience
    • Reaching more youth with activities and messages that resonate with them

Veterans Week 2022

VAC Co-chair discussed the theme for this years Veterans’ Week “Service, courage and sacrifice—at home, around the world and across generations”. They will continue placing an increased commemorative focus on post-war Canadian military efforts and encompass the range of Canada’s military experience, from the battlefields around the world to disaster response here at home.

Discussion on how the visuals and stories seen in the Veterans’ Week poster, postcard, bookmark and youth newspapers highlight several 2022 military milestones that span a century – from the First World War to Afghanistan.

A number of key activities were highlighted including:

  • In Canada programming
  • Overseas activities
  • In school learning activities
  • National Aboriginal Veterans Day on November 8
  • Remembrance Day ceremonies


  • The opportunity for programs in France to be presented in Canada for those who are not able to travel overseas, for example virtual tours of the battlefield.
  • The Gallipoli Newfoundland Memorial in Turkey and the importance of working with countries to build commemorative products and tools.
  • The increased visitation at the Canadian National Vimy and Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial sites post-pandemic. Discussion included the importance to be present at these sites to provide an experience to the next generation of decision makers and leaders.

Juno Beach Centre

The Director General gave a brief overview of the current situation with the Juno Beach Centre condo dispute. On October 7 the Government of Canada announced a $4 M contribution with French municipalities to purchase land adjacent to the Juno Beach Centre. The land was previously sold for condominium development. The Department continues to advance the work and negotiations with the hope of finding a favorable outcome to resolve the situation at the Juno Beach Centre.

Closing Remarks

The Co-chairs closed the meeting and indicated that more information on the next meeting will be communicated soon. Members were thanked for their continued dedication and work on behalf of Veterans and their families.

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