Evidence of meeting #31 for Canadian Heritage in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was heritage.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Steven Clark  Director, National Remembrance Day Ceremony, Royal Canadian Legion
  • Steven Heiter  Secretary, Dominion Ritual and Awards Committee, Royal Canadian Legion
  • Marcel Beaudry  Inspector of Canadian Forces Colours and Badges, Department of National Defence
  • Guy Turpin  Directorate of History and Heritage 3, Department of National Defence
  • Warrant Officer Alain Grenier  Directorate of History and Heritage 3-2, Department of National Defence

Noon

Conservative

The Chair Rob Moore

Good afternoon, everybody. We have a little bit of upkeep for the committee. The first hour, when we were going to study our report, was cancelled. So we will be studying Canada's 150th anniversary celebrations on Thursday for two hours.

Our study today is pursuant to our study on the review of national protocol procedures. We have with us witnesses from the Royal Canadian Legion and the Department of National Defence. Welcome. This is going to be the last meeting where we're going to be hearing from witnesses. Then we'll move to drafting our report on the issue of national protocol procedures.

The way the committee works, gentlemen, is that each group has 10 minutes for opening comments. Then we move into a period of questions and answers.

We'll begin with the Royal Canadian Legion. We have Steven Clark, director, national Remembrance Day ceremony, and Steven Heiter, secretary, dominion ritual and awards committee. The floor is yours.

Noon

Steven Clark Director, National Remembrance Day Ceremony, Royal Canadian Legion

Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, thank you for the invitation to the Royal Canadian Legion to appear before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage to speak on national protocol procedures. On behalf of our dominion president of the Royal Canadian Legion, Patricia Varga, it is our pleasure to be with you here today.

As the chairman said, my name is Steven Clark. I'm director of administration for the Royal Canadian Legion dominion command and director of Canada's national Remembrance Day ceremony. Joining me is Mr. Steven Heiter, who is with the dominion command ritual and awards committee.

As the guardian of remembrance in Canada, the Royal Canadian Legion works tirelessly to keep alive the memory of the 117,000 who have fallen in the military service of Canada. Commemorating is more than providing Canadians with the opportunity to stand in collective reminiscence of our fallen comrades on various occasions throughout the year.

Commemoration is an appreciation of the past, an understanding of how past actions in wars, missions, conflicts, and peacetime will affect future generations. We recall our moments of triumph and tragedy, of excitement and despair. It is this understanding and appreciation that enables us to remember and honour our veterans.

While there's no question about why we need to remember, we are often queried about how to do so properly. The Royal Canadian Legion recognizes the importance of and the need for established protocol procedures. While we will make specific reference to commemorations today, you can apply a more global application of our basic philosophy to other functions and ceremonial events. Functions may differ, but proper planning remains a constant.

Instrumental to effective commemoration is understanding the etiquette, formalities, and traditions that form a prescribed order of service. Respecting these customs and traditions is paramount, but so is achieving a positive result. That achievement is realized through expert advice and by following an established format that outlines correct or suggested procedures. It's natural for organizers to want to do things in an accepted way, because nobody wants to offend. Uncertainties can be reduced by providing guidance.

12:05 p.m.

Steven Heiter Secretary, Dominion Ritual and Awards Committee, Royal Canadian Legion

The format for ceremonies and other occasions observed by the Royal Canadian Legion is outlined in our Ritual and Insignia Manual. This reference manual provides guidance on initiation and installation ceremonies, Remembrance Day ceremonies, dedication of a memorial, and order of divine service in the official opening of a Legion hall. It offers advice on the manner in which funeral and memorial services are conducted and have to properly pay homage to a departed comrade through a Legion tribute service. These protocols have been in place since the formation of our organization in 1926. A significant benefit of having such a reference is that it provides standardization and a procedural uniformity that can be implemented by every Legion branch, regardless of the location of the event.

A copy of this manual is provided to each of our more than 1,450 Legion branches across Canada, the United States, Europe, and Mexico. It is also available on our website.

As thorough as this reference is, it is impossible to account for every possible situation or address all potential variances. It is our position that protocol procedures cannot be overly rigid or narrow. It is essential that such procedures provide for a proper way to plan and conduct commemorations and events while still allowing for flexibility and adaptability as the situation warrants.

12:05 p.m.

Director, National Remembrance Day Ceremony, Royal Canadian Legion

Steven Clark

For example, the central element of Remembrance Day ceremonies is the two minutes of silence. Also important are the traditions of wearing the poppy, the recitation of the act of remembrance, and the sounding of the Last Post, Lament, and Rouse. We unite to show our comrades they will never be forgotten. These traditions are sacrosanct and form part of every Remembrance Day ceremony, whether local, provincial, or national in scope.

There are also suggestions, like the suggested order of precedence for the placing of wreaths and the suggested order of march for the parade. We encourage Legion branches, where possible, to conform to the general format of the national Remembrance Day ceremony as they prepare for their local commemoration, while remaining cognizant, however, of the potential for adaptation.

Any procedural reference must also be mindful and respectful of format variances that are steeped in tradition that may exist between concerned organizations. For instance, in Remembrance Day ceremonies conducted by the Royal Canadian Legion, the Rouse follows the Lament. This order is reversed for ceremonies organized by our military partners. We acknowledge that over time social transformations or other reasons may necessitate amendments to practices and guidelines. While procedures may change, what remains most important is that those for whom we gather to honour, remember, and thank during Remembrance Day ceremonies remain constant.

Once developed, national protocol procedures become an education in communication activity. Without an awareness campaign and information flow, this resource would not be as effective as it could and should be. It is essential that individuals and organizations are provided with knowledge and guidance necessary to ensure ceremonies and other events are conducted in the most dignified manner possible.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Royal Canadian Legion extends its thanks to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage for this opportunity to express our views on national protocol procedures.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rob Moore

Thank you, sir.

We will move to our second set of witnesses. From the Department of National Defence, we have Lieutenant-Colonel Marcel Beaudry, inspector of Canadian Forces colours and badges; Major Guy Turpin, directorate of history and heritage; and Chief Warrant Officer Alain Grenier, directorate of history and heritage.

Welcome to the three of you. The floor is yours.

12:05 p.m.

Lieutenant-Colonel Marcel Beaudry Inspector of Canadian Forces Colours and Badges, Department of National Defence

Thank you, Mr. Chairman and committee members.

My name is Lieutenant-Colonel Marcel Beaudry and I work at the Canadian Forces Directorate of History and Heritage. I'm joined here today by Major Guy Turpin and Chief Warrant Officer Alain Grenier, both from the Dress and Ceremonial section.

The directorate of history and heritage is maintained to preserve and communicate Canada's military history and to foster pride in a Canadian military heritage. One active way of projecting this takes place when we conduct or participate in events such as military burials, commemorative ceremonies, or military ceremonies. Our sailors, soldiers, airmen, and airwomen are very cognizant and proud of the fact that we are highly visible and in the public eye, especially since we are in uniform at the time we participate in these activities.

Our main references for planning these events are: Canadian Forces Publication 200—The Heritage Structure of the Canadian Forces; Canada Forces Publication 201—Canadian Forces Manual of Drill and Ceremonial; and Canadian Forces Publication 265—Canadian Forces Dress Instructions.

These are updated on a regular basis, and we adjust to recommended changes where necessary. These publications are not available on the Internet, but all our regular partners possess hard copies so they can do their own research. We now have a plan for making these publications available shortly on the Internet.

We also have an outstanding team of historians in our arsenal and a section devoted to heritage that assists us in our research and planning. If they do not have the answer at their fingertips, they can access the in-house archives or conduct research at Library and Archives Canada.

Regarding commemorative ceremonies here in Canada and abroad, our main partner is Veterans Affairs Canada. We work very closely together and provide ceremonial advice and support. As an example, we recently provided support for the 95th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge in France, where we deployed a Canadian Forces contingent of approximately 100 personnel.

During all of these ceremonies, our Canadian Forces personnel across Canada provide direct support in the various regions.

For royal tours, funeral honours, state visits and ceremonies involving the national flag, our principal partner is Heritage Canada. We consult each other on a regular basis and share our knowledge and expertise. Our Canadian Forces publications are highly specific in identifying which dignitary is entitled to which honour, which makes things easier for the event planners.

We also work with the Royal Canadian Legion in planning the annual Remembrance Day ceremonies, including the main event here in Ottawa at the Canadian War Memorial.

Clearly, where there is established national protocol governed by, in most instances, the Department of Canadian Heritage, our job is to ensure that the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces adhere to that protocol. Because we work overseas at times, especially with our partners in Veterans Affairs, we need as well to understand the protocols of other nations so that we can see to a harmonious marriage, if you will, of sometimes dissimilar practices.

Internally, within the Canadian Forces, we have our own protocols, which we usually describe as customs, traditions, and heritage, most of which are governed by our own internal regulations and orders, and at times we need to be careful to ensure that well-intentioned interventions by those outside the Canadian Forces do not conflict with time-honoured ways of doing this.

At this point, rather than speak to a myriad of disparate issues in a prepared talk, perhaps it is better to say that we are happy to answer any questions you may have.

Merci.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rob Moore

Thank you.

Now we'll move to our time for questions and answers. These are seven-minute rounds.

A reminder to members: that's seven minutes for the questions and for the answers. You're responsible for your own time.

Mr. Calandra.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Thank you.

And thank you again to the witnesses. I know this is your second attempt to be here, so I do appreciate it.

We've heard from a big cross-section of people. One of the things that we seem to consistently hear is that there's a divergence of opinion from those who are tasked to interpret protocol and those who are asked to carry out events based on protocol.

I'll start with the Legion. You have actually written down, using historical references, your suggested procedures. You also mentioned that there can be a great degree of flexibility. How much of an obstacle, if any, has this manual been in being flexible when it's required for you to be flexible? Does the manual get in the way of that?

12:15 p.m.

Director, National Remembrance Day Ceremony, Royal Canadian Legion

Steven Clark

It does not get in the way of that. What it does is provide the guidance for those organizing the commemoration, what they need to follow. There may be instances, however, where things may be addressed or referenced in the manual that may not be applicable to a local ceremony. For example, for the national Remembrance Day ceremony we have representation by the Governor General. A local ceremony is not going to have that. Of course, when you're referencing the manual, you are going to be able to adjust your ceremony. It's the same thing with the Silver Cross mother. We have the national Silver Cross mother. In all of our locations across the country, it's not always the case where we have a Silver Cross mother present to place a wreath on behalf of the mothers of Canada, so a representative is designated on her behalf.

It provides the structure that those people in the local communities need, but it is not so restrictive that it would prevent the ceremony from taking place.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

When you are looking at updates to your procedures or even to the manual, how do you go about consulting, and how do you ensure accuracy to a Canadian tradition or a Canadian standard, if that's an appropriate question?

12:15 p.m.

Secretary, Dominion Ritual and Awards Committee, Royal Canadian Legion

Steven Heiter

We update this manual on a regular basis, usually right after our biannual convention. The information that comes back to us from convention, through resolutions, we apply to the revising of the manuals. We take input from any of our branches or members who have a comment about it, compile that information, and on a regular basis revise the manual to adjust it to ongoing changes in society, changes in need. We go back and look at things that we've done before, just in terms of trying to keep it up to date.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

I think for the most part Canadians would assume—and probably correctly—that the armed forces are one of the biggest guardians of our traditions when it comes to ceremony and protocol.

How much of what you do is actually in manual form, and how do you make sure Canadian traditions are maintained?

12:15 p.m.

LCol Marcel Beaudry

The military has to be seen as acting as one. A body of men and women has to act as one. Everything from basic drill to a more complex ceremony is written down, so that a pace is always 30 inches, cadence of march for quick march or for slow march doesn't change, and people have to be dressed the same, so we achieve the common look people expect of us. Necessarily, everything is written down, and traditions date back from the British Army and the Royal Navy.

Our Manual of Drill and Ceremonial covers everything from basic standing at attention and standing at ease to battalion ceremonial guards, sentries, escorts, freedom of the city, retreats, tattoos, sunset ceremonies, and street lining. This manual is about an inch and a half thick and it's in English and French. Right now it's in English and French in side-by-side columns, so we can't post it on the Internet. We have to separate out the English and the French and have graphics for each version, so we can put the English-only version on the English website and the French-only version on the French website. That's in progress.

This manual doesn't change very much. It will change when we change weapons, because the weapons drill we do is based on the safe handling of the weapons we currently use. When we change weapons, there will be some minor modifications to the weapons-handling aspects.

The other manual on heritage covers things that don't change very much—flags, colours. Badges and mottos will change to limited extents. Things like flag protocol and forms of address and royal and vice-royal dignitaries and heads of state come from Canadian Heritage. They don't change very much. This is another volume that is about an inch and a half thick.

The third volume is our dress manual, and it's a little less lengthy, but it changes a great deal, and every six months we have a meeting and there are changes that come out.

I hope that answers your question.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rob Moore

Mr. Nantel.

May 15th, 2012 / 12:20 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I would like to thank all of you for coming here today. No one is in a better position than you to tell us about protocol, with the possible exception of Ms. O'Brien, our principal clerk at the House of Commons, who has much to say on the subject. Lord knows it is all about protocol in that case.

My first question is addressed to Mr. Clark and Mr. Heiter, from the Royal Canadian Legion. In my riding of Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, I celebrated Remembrance Day with the people of Boucherville. It was the Sorel chapter of the Royal Legion that looked after organizing that magnificent event, which was certainly quite ceremonial.

I was wondering how we could maintain these traditions of honouring the memory of people who were involved in all these conflicts. Unless I'm mistaken, the Royal Legion has practically disappeared from the Longueuil region. How would you explain this decentralization? Does this not imperil ceremonial traditions of the legion?