Department of National Defence

Department of National Defence

December 05, 2006 16:30 ET

Ministers of National Defence, Veterans Affairs Announce Changes to Memorial Cross

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Dec. 5, 2006) - The Honourable Gordon O'Connor, Minister of National Defence, and the Honourable Greg Thompson, Minister of Veterans Affairs, today announced the first major changes in nearly 90 years to the Memorial Cross, Canada's recognition for the loved ones of those who die in service.

In place of the previous system of granting the Memorial Cross to the deceased's mother and widow, all Canadian Forces members will now choose who they wish to receive the Cross on their behalf. In addition, where the Cross in the past was granted exclusively for fatalities that occurred on foreign military operations, it will now be granted in recognition of any Canadian Forces member whose death is related to their military service, foreign or domestic.

"We must adapt to modern family, social and military circumstances," said Minister O'Connor, "while preserving the original intent and purpose of the Memorial Cross - to honour those most affected by the loss of a loved one in the service of Canada."

"The expansion of the Memorial Cross to include all those who die as a result of service-not just those in foreign military operations-is the fair and just thing to do," said Minister Thompson. "If somebody's death is related to their military service, it is worthy of recognition, whether it happens abroad or here at home in Canada."

The Memorial Cross has been in place since 1919 as a symbol of loss and sacrifice given by a grateful Government of Canada to the loved ones of those who have fallen in the service of their country.

BACKGROUNDER

Changes to the Criteria for the Memorial Cross

The Memorial Cross is a symbol of sacrifice and loss created in the aftermath of the First World War. Since 1919, the Memorial Cross has been worn by mothers and widows who have lost sons and husbands in service. Though the Cross has been physically adapted since the First World War, its general purpose has remained unchanged since 1919.

Canadian society, the make-up of the family, and the nature of military service have evolved considerably in the past 90 years. The existing criteria for the Cross-limiting eligibility to deaths in Special Duty Areas (SDAs), and the recipients to the mother and widow only-are no longer in keeping with modern needs. Recent cases such as the deaths of Lieutenant (Navy) Chris Saunders onboard HMCS Chicoutimi (outside of an SDA) and Captain Nichola Goddard, the first Canadian woman to die in combat, illustrate the need to modernize eligibility criteria.

The criteria for granting the Memorial Cross are being updated to ensure we properly recognize those who grieve the loss of a Canadian Forces (CF) member in the future. From January 1, 2007 onward, all deaths that are related to military service will carry entitlement to the Memorial Cross. Further, CF personnel will now select up to three potential recipients as part of the regular administrative process. The potential recipients can be any living individual(s) who would be personally affected by the loss of the CF member.

DETAILS

Eligible recipients

Each CF member will provide a list of up to three names for this purpose, and the information will be kept on file, to be used if the time comes. This method is designed to be less arbitrary and more fair to all, in recognizing that the individual is best placed to know where their greatest kinship lies - be it with family, loved ones or friends.

With the new rules coming into force January 1, 2007, the names must be submitted and filed by December 31, 2006.

All service-related deaths

This new measure recognizes the unique sacrifice and danger inherent in all military activities: those who die in a training accident-or while fighting fires or floods-will now be eligible for the same honour as those in foreign military operations.

HISTORICAL NOTES

The Memorial Cross, often referred to as the Silver Cross for Mothers, was created in 1919 to commemorate the dead of the First World War. The original Cross bore the cypher of King George V (GRI) and was worn around the neck from a 750 mm long, 11 mm wide, purple ribbon. Purple stands for suffering and mystery and traditionally was the stained-glassmaker's color for black, expressing negation, mourning, and death.

The Cross was reinstituted in August 1940 for the Second World War with the cypher of King George VI (GVIR) in the center. In January 1945, the Cross was officially modified to be worn on a broach instead of around the neck.

The Cross was revived again in December 1950 for the Korean conflict and was eventually modified to include our current Queen's cypher (EIIR) following Her Majesty's Accession in 1952. This is the version that is still issued today.

Every year, a Silver Cross Mother is invited to lay a wreath on Remembrance Day at the National War Memorial in Ottawa. The Memorial Cross is depicted on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, unveiled in May 2000. There is also a large replica of the Memorial Cross hanging above the door of the Memorial Chamber in the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill.

WEARING

The recipient may wear the Memorial Cross at any time they deem appropriate. It is worn on the left breast, pinned above any medals the recipient may have been awarded.

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