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Vets to get Arctic medals

Hundreds of Canadian veterans who braved the North Atlantic to deliver Second World War supplies to Russia will be allowed to wear a decoration created by the British government to honour their service.

Approval to wear the Arctic Star by Governor General David Johnston has come over a year after it was announced and after sailors, many of them from the merchant marine, expressed concern they were becoming caught in the middle of frosty relations between Ottawa and Moscow.

The medal was created to honour those who risked their lives on the treacherous convoys to Murmansk and Archangel, in Russia.

But in order for Canadians to wear the decoration, the Governor General needed to sign off. A note was quietly posted in the Canada Gazette, which posts many government decisions. However no public announcement was made to the veterans.

A spokeswoman for the Governor General would not comment Friday and National Defence would say only that there are strict guidelines when it comes to the acceptance and display of foreign honours.

The veterans, many in their late 80s and 90s, have been waiting more than a year for that permission and some believe the delay stems from rapidly deteriorating relations over the crisis in Ukraine.

Paul Bender, a merchant navy captain and Ottawa resident who enlisted at age 15, said recognizing veterans who aided the Russians seven decades ago could be politically embarrassing for Conservatives who've been talking tough against Vladimir Putin's government.

He says honouring those who risked their lives in the war should be separate from the political circumstances of today.

"I think it should be a totally separate matter insofar as it happened almost three-quarters of a century ago," Bender, 86, said in a recent interview with The Canadian Press.

The Canadian Press

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