Nova Scotia

Afghan war vet lobbies to move conflict dates to front of cenotaph

A former Canadian soldier says he believes Halifax city councillors made the wrong decision last year when they chose not to move the dates of the Afghanistan war to the front of the Halifax cenotaph. 

Halifax regional council decided last year the dates should stay on the back of monument

The existing Halifax cenotaph is shown on the left. An artistic rendering of how the cenotaph would look if Afghanistan dates were added to the front is shown on the right. (Halifax Regional Municipality)

A former Canadian soldier says he believes Halifax city councillors made the wrong decision last year when they chose not to move the dates of the Afghanistan war to the front of the Halifax cenotaph. 

The dates were engraved on the back of the cenotaph in 2015, but people have to walk around the stone pillar to see them. The dates are also engraved in a smaller size than those on the front.

Retired chief warrant officer Robert Thompson believes that isn't right. 

"I think the 40,000 of us that did the business that our country asked us to do in Afghanistan have earned their right to have those dates on the front of the cenotaph," said Thompson, who spent a year in the war-torn country. 

The front of the cenotaph has the dates for the First World War, the Second World War and the Korean War. It also bears the words "In Honour of Those Who Served; In Memory of Those Who Fell."

Crowding statue 'more disrespectful'?

City staff examined the issue in March 2018, and concluded that adding more dates to the front would crowd the statue and take away from its historic value.

The monument was originally put up in 1929 as a tribute to soldiers who died in the First World War. Dates were added for other conflicts after they happened. 

Coun. Bill Karsten said regional council agreed with staff's recommendation last year and that decision should stand. 

"I don't think it's disrespectful. It's probably, at the end of the day, more disrespectful to start crowding the front with each and every conflict that comes forward from here on in," said Karsten, who is Thompson's councillor.  

Thompson disagrees. He said that he and other veterans who have examined the monument think there is enough space to add more dates. 

"Overwhelmingly, the response was there's tons of room there. Just get on with it," he said.  

Sunday marks the fifth anniversary of the end of Canada's war in Afghanistan. Thompson intends to use that date to gather support and signatures on a petition to change the cenotaph. 

If it requires renovating the cenotaph and having it rededicated, so be it.- Retired chief warrant officer Robert Thompson

He said that he would be in favour of adding any future conflicts to the front of the cenotaph as well. 

"Any conflict that our government sends us into, if it's a prolonged period and it meets the criteria, then those troops will have earned their place of honour and recognition on the cenotaph," he said. 

"If it requires renovating the cenotaph and having it rededicated, so be it."

Adding the Afghan dates to the front of the cenotaph would cost $12,000. City staff said there are funds available to cover that cost. 

About the Author

Shaina Luck

Reporter

Shaina Luck covers everything from court to city council. Her favourite stories are about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Email: shaina.luck@cbc.ca

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