Humanist veterans call for inclusive Remembrance Day ceremonies

Ex-military Humanists wrote to the Grandview Legion today asking for future Remembrance Day ceremonies to represent all who have served.

In a letter to the Vancouver Sun on Monday, November 16, Suzanne Salter wrote that this year's ceremony at Grandview Cenotaph included "long prayers and Christian references to the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" but "there wasn't an attempt to include other religions into the ceremony." The ceremony was organized by the Royal Canadian Legion, Grandview Branch #179.

Responding to the claims, atheist and Humanist veterans wrote asking for clarity about what happened at the ceremony and called for inclusion of non-religious viewpoints in future ceremonies. They referenced the British Humanist Association's For All Who Serve campaign, which advocates for the inclusion of Humanist representation in remembrance ceremonies in the UK.

From Salter's letter:

Remembrance Day is a time to honour our veterans and the ceremonies are important for all Canadian citizens to engage in and feel included and comfortable attending.

The letter is below. If you're a veteran and an atheist who would like to add your name to the letter, email [email protected]

P Salmon
Royal Canadian Legion, Grandview Branch #179
2205 Commercial Drive
Vancouver, BC V5N 4B6

November 20, 2015

Dear P Salmon, President

Re: All who serve deserve to be remembered

Canada has one of the world’s most diverse militaries, with more soldiers who are women, people of colour, and aboriginals. Many of our soldiers are also non-Christians. These people serve Canada alongside men and women of all faiths and none. Some have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

So we are concerned by a letter in the Vancouver Sun (Monday, Nov 16) claiming that this year’s Remembrance Ceremony at the cenotaph in Grandview Park excluded non-Christians with repeated Christian references to the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and that no other religious viewpoints were included.

We are hoping you can clarify for us what happened at this year’s ceremony and whether you would support inclusion of a Humanist or non-religious representative in future ceremonies.

In Europe, the For All Who Serve campaign has seen significant success in obtaining a space for a Humanist representative in over 25 locations such as Belfast, Edinburgh, Milton Keynes, and Belgium, to name but a few. We are not seeking to supplant the role of the religious at the ceremony, just to make it inclusive of those who don’t follow a particular faith.

We look forward to hearing your views on the matter and hope you add your voice to this important cause.

Yours sincerely,

Ian Bushfield, Executive Director, BC Humanist Association
Humanist Veterans: Aaron Bayes, Dale Jackaman, Dr Rob Tarzwell

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