The 8th Canadian Hussars have withdrawn the controversial gift of a Cougar armoured vehicle for installation in Sackville’s Memorial Park.
James Lockyer, the regiment’s honorary colonel, confirmed the donation had been withdrawn during a telephone interview on Saturday.
He said the Cougar was a way of memorializing Sackville’s long relationship with the Hussars’ C Squadron as well as the regiment’s role in the liberation of Europe during the Second World War.
“But by the same token, any memorialization doesn’t have to be focussed on a given item, in this case the Cougar,” Lockyer said.
He added that the regiment has proposed setting up a committee with representation from the Hussars, the town and perhaps a military historian to examine how best to memorialize a relationship that lasted more than a century.
“The regiment put forward that proposal and the town accepted it,” Lockyer said.
He refused to respond to suggestions that the Cougar would not be a fitting memorial because of its use against Mohawks during the Oka Crisis in 1990.
“I don’t respond to that,” he said. “Again, the vehicle was intended to memorialize the liberation of Europe by members of the 8th Hussars.”
What is Memorial Park for?
Mayor John Higham says he received a note from the Hussars Wednesday night that did not give specifics about why the gift was withdrawn.
“Just in general terms [it said] that they were concerned about some of the difficulties that had arisen from their donation,” Higham said in a telephone interview.
He added that he expects that criticisms over the use of the Cougar during the Oka Crisis were among the difficulties the note referred to.
A statement on the town’s website says:
…we have received feedback from the community reflecting a number of different perspectives on this donation, including those of the indigenous community. After hearing these perspectives, the Hussars made the decision to withdraw the donation and offered to explore alternative ways to memorialize the special relationship between the Hussars and the Town.
Mayor Higham says the real question now is what happens next.
“My advice to council will be that we should clarify what that park is for, how we expect it to run and what we think is appropriate for being in there, so that this kind of debate won’t happen in the future,” he said.
No winners or losers
Alex Thomas, who raised the issue of the Cougar’s use at Oka, says he hopes the Hussars make a full statement soon giving the reasons for withdrawing their gift.
During an interview Saturday, he added that he believes the regiment acted because of revelations about the oppression of indigenous people that came out of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as well as the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
“I think the Hussars should really be commended here,” he said. “I think they’re acting in the spirit of reconciliation realizing, OK we didn’t see this and we made a mistake, but in the spirit of reconciliation, we are going to make a change and I think that is a great way forward and a great lead to follow.”
Thomas added that he’s not declaring victory now that it’s clear the Cougar won’t be installed in Memorial Park.
“I don’t think there’s winners and losers here. I think this is a chance for us to come together as a community and talk about our park,” he said.
Thomas says his group still plans to make a presentation to town council on July 2nd about the need for a citizens’ committee that would discuss plans for the future of Memorial Park.
Cougar belongs in park
“Im really upset, I really am, I’m really upset about it,” Doreen Richards, president of the Sackville branch of the Royal Canadian Legion said during an interview.
She added she was hoping Sackville would get the Cougar because the town deserves it.
“I know there’s going to be a lot of disappointed people in Sackville,” Richards said.
“I know Sackville’s behind us,” she added. “There’s just a handful that aren’t.”
She said the Cougar belongs in the park.
“It’s a Memorial Park, it’s a park for putting these things into,” Richards said. “A lot of children enjoy looking at them. It’s their heritage really and it’s history.”
When asked about the use of the Cougar during the Oka Crisis, Richards said the armoured vehicles were there, but weren’t used.
“The machines were behind the soldiers,” she added. “They were there just in case, but nothing came of it.”
Richards said the legion will also be making a presentation to town council next Tuesday.
To read earlier coverage of James Lockyer’s original presentation to town council in February, click here.
For information from Tantramar Heritage Trust on the history of Sackville’s Memorial Park, click here.
To read a detailed history of the 8th Canadian Hussars complete with archival photos, click here.