Remembrance Day 'sergeant' Franck Gervais not in the military, DND says
'It's an actual Criminal Code offence, so I suspect that somebody should investigate,' minister says
The Department of National Defence says Franck Gervais, a man who claimed to be a decorated soldier during Tuesday's Remembrance Day ceremony at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, is not a member of the Canadian Forces.
After seeing Gervais speaking as a "sergeant" on television, a number of veterans and soldiers called CBC to question his status as a soldier.
It is an offence for someone who is not serving in the military to wear a current military uniform.
"Falsely impersonating a Canadian Armed Forces member is an issue to be taken seriously and is covered under Section 419 of the Criminal Code of Canada," a spokesperson for the Defence Department said in an emailed statement.
"Such activities are a disservice to the proud men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces, who earn the right to wear their uniforms through their hard work and the sacrifices they make for our country."
CBC News spoke with Gervais's wife, and she declined to comment. CBC has not been able to reach Gervais.
The CBC issued a statement Wednesday about the event: "During CBC's extensive coverage of Remembrance Day commemorations in Ottawa, we interviewed many veterans and serving members of the Canadian Forces. These included one man who had been standing among a group of uniformed personnel. To civilian eyes, he appeared to be an authentic soldier," the statement said.
"We have since learned that he was not, that his uniform was not correct, and that he was wearing medals he had not earned. All this was drawn to our attention by veterans and serving members, who were understandably angry at seeing this counterfeit soldier. We regret this, and are following up to learn more about the man."
CBC News asked Jake Flanders of the Airborne Regiment Association of Canada to review the tape from Tuesday's interview.
Flanders said a number of "red flags" jumped out at him, such as Gervais's facial hair, the red sash he wore across his uniform and his maroon beret.
"The red flags are, first off, his facial hair. In the military, you're not allowed to have a beard like that."
Flanders said that for someone claiming to be a "sergeant," Gervais wore his red sash the wrong way, while the maroon beret he wore is traditionally reserved for soldiers serving in parachute units.
"I can tell you that all sorts of people, ex-airborne people and military jumpers, were all over Facebook saying, 'Does anybody know this guy?' And there are just too many... symbols that he's faking it.
"But the thing that really irks me about him is he has a medal for bravery on," Flanders said.
"It's all wrong."
'Somebody should investigate': Fantino
Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino said he had no knowledge of a man posing as a soldier but expressed concern when CBC News approached him for comment.
Fantino, who was the commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police before jumping into politics, said he has seen similar incidents in his previous line of work.
"We've seen people pretending to be police officers in my career," he said.
"It's unfortunate that anybody would pass themselves off as a veteran when they're not — wearing medals that they're not entitled to."
Asked what could be done about the incident, Fantino said someone should investigate.
"I would suspect that somebody should investigate and pursue the issue. But I have no knowledge of it."
With files from James Cudmore