POLITICS

Kenora legion chaplain offers resignation after remarks

11/18/2014 07:42 EST | Updated 01/18/2015 05:59 EST
The Royal Canadian Legion in Kenora, Ont. was offered a resignation by its chaplain after some members and the local Conservative MP complained about her remarks at the legion's Remembrance Day service.

During the Nov. 11 service, Rev. Sandra Tankard spoke out about concerns that veterans who fought in Afghanistan are not getting proper care and then talked about cuts to Veterans Affairs.

"That was deemed to be 'inappropriately political'," Tankard said in an email to CBC News.

"Canadians have become lulled into thinking that our Afghan vets have received similar support to that received by vets in earlier conflicts and that is not the case," Tankard said.

"Further it is the 'job' of the chaplain to stand with the suffering," she added. "PTSD is a sort of life-long sacrifice."

After the Remembrance Day service, Tankard said local Conservative MP Greg Rickford approached her directly and expressed his "displeasure" at her remarks.

'Mandated level of decorum'

Rickford declined to comment on this story.

Tankard said she wrote a letter of apology to Rickford and offered her resignation as chaplain after she was told some legion members felt she had "embarrassed the legion." 

Her resignation was to be considered at a meeting on Nov. 17.

But at least one national veterans group is standing behind Tankard.

"This is very extraordinary particularly for someone who is called to the church," said Canadian Veterans Advocacy president Michael Blais. "Usually there is a mandated level of decorum that is provided during Remembrance Day but I certainly sympathize with [Tankard] and understand her frustration and frankly feel that it is appropriate that she did speak out."

"People should rally behind the wounded not against those who are the messengers of the wounded's plight."

When asked whether there is a lesson for others in her Remembrance Day experience, Tankard said "perhaps it is that the freedoms we have to speak are not necessarily as vibrant as they once were."

Rev. Sandra Tankard provided CBC News with these notes from her Remembrance Day service:

REMEMBRANCE DAY  Nov. 11, 2014

Each one of us,

and many others across the country and around the world

are wearing the Poppy of Remembrance today.

Because of the recent deaths of two Canadian soldiers,

Cirillo and Vincent,

And because this is the centenary

of the beginning of the Great War

(which also became known as the First World War),  

most of us are more attentive to remembrance this year

than perhaps we have been in years past.

So what, you might ask, have we forgotten?

Certainly not the SACRIFICE

made by those who laid down their lives for King and Country;

Certainly not the COURAGE

of our men and women at-arms.

Certainly not the TRAINING and DISCIPLINE

that our Canadian Troops have brought to

Policing or Peacekeeping in Korea, Cyprus,

and other hotspots where they have been called

as part of United Nations and NATO efforts.

And most recently we have not forgotten to honour those

who died in the Afghanistan conflict,

who were remembered as their bodies travelled along

Hwy 401 from CFB Trenton to Toronto – the “Highway of Heroes”.

NO, we have not forgotten to honour

the individuals who paid the ultimate price!

But we HAVE largely forgotten to honour

that which they have won for us:

Our “rights” to freedom of religion:

to choose not only HOW we worship Our Higher Power

(and what we choose to name that Power),

or, even if we choose NOT!

Our “rights” to freedom of assembly:

that we might gather together to pursue

personal, professional, business, or  community actions

for the good of society.

Our “rights” to vote:

to choose freely our representatives in local councils,

in Provincial and Federal parliaments.

Our “rights” to freedom of speech:

To be heard by our peers and by our leaders

Even if we do not agree with them,

perhaps especially if we don’t!

Canada’s continued participation

in the quest for Peace-and-Justice

during the past seventy years

has largely fallen upon the shoulders of the members of our Armed Forces.

Significantly VOLUNTEER, not conscripted!

The nature of these conflicts has changed,

And those men and women, too, have paid a price,

not only in the deaths of their comrades, in the field,

but also in wounds to body, mind and spirit.

Physical wounds are visible, and so can be treated.

Canada’s health system has provided excellent physiotherapy,

and prosthetics to injured veterans.

Wounds to mind and spirit are much harder to see

and much more difficult to remedy. 

I for one, could not finish reading

Romeo Dallaire’s memoir Shake hands with the Devil,

and even today as a respected member of our Senate,

he continues to struggle with PTSD.

For too many others, the battle with PTSD

has ended only with suicide.

James Dugan noted on Sunday in his Sermon

that suicides of Afghanistan vets

now exceed the number of battle fatalities.

Our Government has continued to cut funding

to the Ministry of Veteran’s Affairs,

including removing Service Offices.

Like many other members of the Royal Canadian Legion,

I claim my right to dissent against this action,

both with my voice and a letter to my MP

and with the promise of my vote

to the party that would restore that funding

to the people and programs it has supported!

I do so, immeasurably thankful to those who have served

to keep Canada free, and Canadians safe:

the men and women of our Army, Navy and Airforce, 

as well as our Coast Guard, and Police and Fire Departments,

indeed, all those whose work for us requires duty and discipline.

I invite you to add thanksgiving to your solemn REMEMBRANCE this day.

Let us leave this time and place today

Knowing again WHY we honour these men and women.