By Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
The Royal Canadian Legion says it’s “sorry” one of its British Columbia branches published a joke in one of its newsletters about murdering two “Indians.”
The Cranbrook, B.C., branch of the Legion printed 40 copies of its August newsletter containing the joke before pulling the issue following a complaint. The joke, about two hunters who separately shoot two “Indians” dead, was replaced with a publisher’s note that did not contain an apology.
Bob Butt, spokesperson for the Royal Canadian Legion, said the joke was “definitely inappropriate” and he hoped the branch would never do something like that again.
“We apologize to the Aboriginal peoples for this going out,” he said. “We are extremely sorry.”
Butt, however, said that Ottawa headquarters has little control over the activities of its multitude of branches scattered across the country.
“If a branch puts something out, we will find out about it after the fact,” said Butt. “And we will apologize on behalf of the legion. We can’t apologize on behalf of the branch.”
The Cranbrook branch falls under the Legion’s B.C. and Yukon Command which issued “formal and sincere” apologies to the two women who initially complained about the joke. The branch has also been told to cease publishing jokes and cartoons and all branches under B.C. and Yukon’s jurisdiction have been ordered to vet all content before it’s published in a newsletter.
“This newsletter was issued in error by one individual and was immediately removed,” said the B.C. and Yukon Command in a statement issued Wednesday. “We do not tolerate materials which are in any way racist, sexist or make anyone uncomfortable.”
Cranbrook resident Shirley Green, 77, who is of Metis and Ktunaxa heritage, issued the initial complaint to the branch. Her daughter, Joyce Green, a Regina academic, also followed up with a complaint.
“I do hope the branch of Legion in Cranbrook gets some education on what constitutes racism,” said Shirley Green, in an interview with APTN National News.
Richard Blackwolf, president of the Canadian Aboriginal Veterans and Serving Members Association, said he’s not surprised by the issue.
“I am not surprised these things come up in the Legion,” said Blackwolf, who is about to embark on a cross-country tour to hand out Queen Jubilee Medals to veterans. “In my experience, it is not unusual for the legion.”
Blackwolf said he’s dealt with situations in the past where First Nations people have been kicked out of Legions.
“We have mixed relations with them. We all belong to the Legion. Our executive and I all belong to the Legion,” said Blackwolf, who served in the Navy for 15 years, beginning in 1959, operating underwater and surface weapons systems. “There are some Legions that we have reports of problems. It depends on the people.”
Blackwolf said the Legion, as an institution, is on the decline, now that it depends more and more on membership from outside the veteran’s community.
“The Legion doesn’t represent who it was at one time anymore,” he said. “Many branches are closing down or have reduced hours. Some of them will eventually be boarded up and sold off as property. It is definitely on the wane.”
Blackwolf said he would be travelling through the Cranbrook area this month, and planned to stop off at the Legion there.