The national leader of the Royal Canadian Legion has apologized for the actions of its branch in Cranbrook, B.C., for a joke it published about murdering two “Indians.”
Gordon Moore said in a statement the organization is “appalled that an anti-aboriginal ‘joke’ was published in a newsletter.”
“I am aware of the remarks made in the ‘joke’ towards our aboriginals and do not deem this as acceptable behaviour for any branch of The Royal Canadian Legion,” he said.
The Cranbrook branch printed 40 copies of their August newsletter before pulling the issue. The replacement issue explained why the joke was removed, but didn’t offer an apology.
Mr. Moore apologized personally and on behalf of those at the legion’s Dominion Command to those offended by the behaviour.
“The provincial command involved has taken the proper steps to ensure this type of mistake doesn’t happen in the future,” he said.
“Aboriginal people have fought alongside of other Canadians with honour, commitment and pride. They do not deserve to be subjected to this type of behaviour anywhere or any time.” The joke angered at least one woman who received the newsletter. First nations leaders in the province were also outraged.
Shirley Green, 77, said she was shaking with outrage when she read the joke and immediately contacted the branch president.
She said the joke disrespected and dishonoured thousands of aboriginal soldiers and Metis and Inuit.
The joke involved two hunters, one from Alberta and one from Saskatchewan, who separately shot an “Indian.”
When Ms. Green contacted Cranbrook Legion president Edith LeClair, she said Ms. LeClair replied that “obviously people can’t take a joke.”
Chiefs in Penticton and Osoyoos are also asking how the joke was able to make it into print.
“This was a very sad incident that’s very disgraceful and disrespectful to first nations people, especially coming from a legion and knowing that my grandfather was a veteran,” Penticton Indian Band chief Jonathan Kruger said.
“Everyone needs to own up and what I see are a bunch of excuses. A sincere apology needs to be made,” said Chief Kruger, who said he took great pride watching the recent documentary Storming Juno, which included footage of his grandfather, Joe Frazie.
Osoyoos Indian Band chief Clarence Louie noted the contributions of first nations people during both world wars and Vietnam.
“In both world wars there was a higher percentage of first nations people enlisted than any other ethic group on both sides of the border,” said Chief Louie, a recipient of the Order of Canada.
“At powwows, there’s always a strong military and veteran presence.”
Chief Louie said what is considered offensive is often in the eye of the beholder, but noted the legion members he knows would realize they stepped over the line.
“Sometimes you hear jokes about ‘Indian time’ from our own people. Is it offensive? It depends on what’s said before that and what’s said afterward. In the case of this [newsletter], unless you’re a bigot or redneck, you’d realize it crossed the line.”