POLITICS

Fake War Veteran At Citizenship Ceremonies Prompts New Safeguards From Ottawa

07/31/2015 05:48 EDT | Updated 07/31/2016 05:59 EDT
The federal government has implemented new rules covering how veterans are invited to citizenship ceremonies, after a fake war veteran participated in Hamilton-area ceremonies last Remembrance Day.

Citizen and Immigration Canada (CIC) has implemented a number of safeguards, including having CIC officials liaise with regional veterans associations, verify their records and prevent dishounorably discharged veterans from participating.

"The steps above will ensure that CAF members and veterans may continue to play an important role in welcoming new citizens to the Canadian family, while ensuring that incidents such as the one referenced does not happen again," said CIC spokesperson, Nancy Caron.

The review was a direct result of the actions of Donald Lemmond, a 67-year-old who posed an American and Canadian war veteran with service medals from the Vietnam and Afghanistan war, among other medals.

Lammond attended local citizenship ceremonies, and spoke at Mohawk College's Remembrance Day ceremony in 2014, one that included a video commemorating Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, who was killed in the attacks on Parliament Hill on Oct. 22.

"My name is Donald Lemmond," he said in a video at Mohawk College on Nov. 11. "I served with the forces of Canada and the United States for 35 years as a captain."

'Mohawk will be doing our homework'

Mohawk College has also changed it's own policy because of Lemmond.

"Mohawk will be doing our homework and verifying the service record of guest speakers at our Remembrance Day ceremonies," said spokesperson Jay Robb.

Lemmond, meanwhile, was charge criminally with unlawfully using military uniforms and medals. On July 9, Lemmond pleaded guilty and received a suspended sentence for those charges and was placed on 12 months of probation. 

In an apology read in court, Lemmond said, "I'd only like to say that I'm extremely sorry that I took and purchased the medals, but I thought it would give me a little more authority in the job that I was performing for the legion that I was in."

Judge: 'You really didn't gain anything other than some, I suppose, minor ego boost'

Lemmond was described in court as a member of the Canadian Reserves from 1974 to 1986. He admitted he purchased the medals he wore to citizenship ceremonies. Lemmond wore a Hamilton legion uniform to the ceremonies, from Her Majesty's Army and Navy Veterans Society, a group which he is a member of.

Those medals included decorations for being a prisoner of war, the Purple Heart, Silver Star, Bronze Star and Vietnam and Afghanistan service medals.

In court, his lawyer, Dean Paquette, said Lemmond was abandoned as a child, placed in a residential school, adopted at five, and sexually assaulted by his adopted father and uncle until he was 16.

"One could understand the role he was playing gave him a level of self respect, perhaps false one, but a level of self respect he probably never had experience in his life," Paquette said.

Those parts of his past are self-reported, Paquette admitted, but the lawyer said he has seen the scars of a quadruple bypass Lemmond had three years ago. He's due back under the knife in two weeks to remove blood clots in his legs.

"(Lemmond) is a lonely isolated man who really has no family, no friends, no life and with dim prospects for his future given his health," Paquette said.

Justice Timothy Culver gave sympathy to Lemmond for his upbringing, but said, "The amount of suffering, both mental and physical, and the needs that veterans carry from the fields of battle really are diminished when someone who isn't entitled to those honours claims them."

"You really didn't gain anything other than some, I suppose, minor ego boost," Culver added.

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