Canadian governments, both Liberal and Conservative, have initiated groups, subgroups, and committees that don’t receive a lot of media attention. That’s not surprising, but a committee specifically dedicated to helping craft a national apology would seem to be an unlikely candidate for inclusion.
If you ever felt this way, think again.
My first thought? “What on earth is the National Apology Advisory Committee?”
According to a March 28 press release, the NAAC “was established in June 2021 as a consulting arm to the Government of Canada in the shaping of the upcoming official apology” related to the No. 2 Construction Battalion. There are 22 committee members “comprised of community leaders, historians and No. 2 descendants serving as volunteers.” It’s co-chaired by Lt. Col. Barry Pitcher and Russell Grosse, executive director of the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia.
These two groups, in conjunction with the Canadian Army, have apparently led “four Canada-wide consultations to inform the apology and related events” between December 2021 and March 2022. Two further consultations were planned for April.
How many people were aware of the “Canada-wide consultations?” Not many, it appears.
There’s nothing wrong with honouring the battalion. Their members were treated poorly and faced racism, but they acted with valour and honour. An apology is certainly warranted, and their historical legacy should be preserved.
Nevertheless, did the Liberals really need to form a large-scale committee to deal with a straightforward apology?
When I worked in the Harper PMO, one speechwriter would typically be designated for events like national apologies. This person would write and rewrite materials until it was finished, and worked directly with the bureaucracy. If it was necessary to speak to someone for historical background, he or she would set up meetings and phone calls.
The NAAC has 22 members, and is linked with several organizations. As important as the battalion apology is, this is overkill and a waste of time and resources. It’s another example of this Liberal government showering themselves with glory to gain approval from every corner of the country—a fairly common tactic by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau since the blackface controversy sullied his public image.
It’s also worth pointing out that while Anand is front and centre on this issue, she’s been nearly invisible on matters involving the Canadian military. That’s the primary duty of her role in cabinet, lest we forget.
The national apology to the No. 2 Construction Battalion will take place on July 9 in Truro, Nova Scotia. The Liberals will bring out plenty of pomp and circumstance. The PM will attempt to resume the role of martyr he relishes so deeply. But when you consider all that we now know—and largely didn’t know—about this event, it seems to resemble more of a sad trombone than a magnificent symphony.