Nova Scotia

Rear admiral apologizes to Indigenous recruits for sailor's 'war cry' insult

The head of the Royal Canadian Navy on the East Coast has apologized to a group of Indigenous military recruits who were offended by a "war cry" a sailor made on board HMCS Fredericton earlier this month in Halifax.

Member of HMCS Fredericton taunted Aboriginal recruits during an introductory training program

Rear Admiral John Newton apologized for a racial taunt by a junior member of HMCS Fredericton directed at Aboriginal recruits touring the ship. (CBC)

The head of the Royal Canadian Navy on the East Coast apologized Friday to a group of Indigenous military recruits who were offended by a "war cry" a sailor made on board HMCS Fredericton earlier this month in Halifax.

Rear Admiral John Newton made the remarks at a ceremony for 13 participants — 12 men and one woman — who graduated from the Canadian Armed Forces Aboriginal entry program.

The participants and their mentors were on board the ship on May 11 as part of a three-week mini boot camp when a junior member of HMCS Fredericton burst out with a mocking taunt.

"I can assure you that the dance or the war cry has been addressed for the insult that it was. I think the member shocked himself even, and is sincerely apologetic," Newton said at Friday's ceremony, which incorporated Aboriginal traditions.

"He's shamed himself and shamed his unit, and he's immediately realized the insensitivity and the crudeness of the act."

Aboriginal recruits are given a tour of HMCS Fredericton. (Canadian Armed Forces)

A spokesperson for the navy said other junior members who were there told the sailor it was not acceptable and reported the incident up the ship's chain of command.

Lt-Cmdr. Jordan Holder said administrative action has been taken, with a recorded warning placed on the member's file. An investigation is underway to determine whether further discipline is required.

Newton said he was "saddened that such an impulse even resided in a modern sailor's brain," but added that the member has learned a "hard lesson" and will now be "a better foot soldier."

Redoubling of effort urged

The rear admiral acknowledged the experience of recruits in the Aboriginal entry program wasn't perfect, nor are the Canadian Forces, but he promised action will be taken when racial taunts are made.

Newton asked the participants to join other members "to redouble their efforts to address bad behaviours that arise from ignorance and lack of substantive contact with Aboriginal communities."

Program mentor Brooke Robertson was with the participants and heard the taunt.

Aviator Brooke Robertson is a program mentor. (Paul Poirier/CBC)

"I was pretty offended, but kept my cool and I think we dealt with it the way it should've been," she said following the ceremony.

Robertson is Oji-Cree from northern Manitoba and graduated from the program in 2014. She now works as an aviator at 14 Wing Greenwood.

She offered this to the new crop of recruits: "My advice is to always stand up for your culture and your beliefs and at the same time be respectful of others because not everyone is savvy in cultures."

'Part of the machinery changing us'

The annual program, which takes recruits to 12 Wing Shearwater, 14 Wing Greenwood, Camp Aldershot and CFB Halifax, is the only one in Atlantic Canada. St. Jean, Que., also hosts two courses for Indigenous recruits.

Indigenous culture was honoured at a graduation ceremony for the Aboriginal entry program participants. (Elizabeth Chiu/CBC)

The program can accept 30 people, but it was less than half full. Of the 13 graduates of this course, 11 have chosen to continue with a career in the military.

Newton urged them to consider staying in the armed forces and said the course is "part of the machinery changing us."

"I hope that when all of you beautiful young people return home that you will consider this experience from the highs and lows as an honest portrayal of who we are."


Elizabeth Chiu is a reporter in Nova Scotia and hosts Atlantic Tonight on Saturdays at 7 p.m., 7:30 p.m. in Newfoundland. If you have a story idea for her, contact her at