The B.C./Yukon Command of the Royal Canadian Legion says it is removing the photo of a man accused of “stolen valour” from its Wall of Honour in the Okanagan Falls Legion branch.
Stolen Valour Canada, a group dedicated to outing military impostors, made allegations online this week involving a OK Falls resident who has been frequently photographed in the community over the years in military uniform and medals.
The group, however, says the man in question never served in the Canadian military, nor was he wounded in an IED strike as claimed.
Section 419 of the Criminal Code of Canada prohibits wearing unearned military medals or uniforms without the authority to do so, with a maximum penalty of up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.
In response to the allegations made online, the B.C./Yukon Legion command said on Twitter the man’s photo would be removed from the wall of the local legion.
Castanet News is not identifying the man because it cannot independently verify Stolen Valour Canada’s claims — military service records are not publicly available.
Stolen Valour says it took the step of naming the man after assurances that he would not wear a uniform to Remembrance Day ceremonies were not followed. The group is made of a network veterans across the country.
The Canadian Press reported Thursday the Legion announced it expelled two members over “stolen valour.”
Legion dominion president Thomas Irvine would not identify the two members in an interview, except to say that one is from Ontario and the other from British Columbia. Each was given an opportunity to explain their actions before being expelled.
“The Legion has taken a big hit over the years on different cases of stolen valour, and justly so,” Irvine said of past criticisms the organization was not doing enough to curb such behaviour by members. “But I’m tired of it. We’ve got to put a stop to this.”
Not only do those who make illegitimate claims of military service or sacrifice degrade the honour of those who have served, Irvine said, they also tarnish the reputation of the Legion if they are members of the organization.
“Stolen valour is stolen service and it’s just totally wrong,” said Irvine, who was a military reservist for 23 years, including a peacekeeping tour in the Middle East. “This kind of stuff has to stop within the legion, it’s got to stop, period, within Canada. It’s against the law.”
That is why he personally pushed for new bylaws and direction to punish those found to have claimed service or commendations falsely, Irvine said, which includes automatically expelling for life any members convicted under the Criminal Code of unlawfully wearing a military uniform or medal.
Stolen Valour Canada applauded the Legion’s move.
“We remember the blood, sweat and tears that it took to earn a piece of metal attached to coloured ribbon, a strip of cloth or an embroidered badge, and that is why we get somewhat emotional about them,” Stolen Valour Canada said in an unsigned email.
“It’s really quite simple, if you didn’t earn it, don’t wear it.”
with files from the Canadian Press