Toronto soldiers clear to wear uniforms in public, army says

Security at the Saint-Jean Garrison in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec was heightened after the shootings in Ottawa on October 22, 2014. David Sedell/Global News

Despite two fatal attacks on soldiers in three days, Toronto army reservists have no orders not to wear their uniforms in public, an army spokesman confirmed today.

Air Force Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent died Tuesday after being rammed with a car in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., Monday, and an unidentified soldier standing guard at the War Memorial in Ottawa died of his wounds Wednesday after being shot.

“No one has issued any directive to anyone saying not to wear uniform in public,” said Capt. Chris Wattie, spokesperson for Toronto’s army reserve brigade.

“There’s been some discussion of it. There’s been a lot of debate among guys in uniform, and the consensus seems to be that nobody should be worried about wearing uniforms. But be aware of your surroundings, all that good stuff.”

Some soldiers using transit do choose to wear civilian clothes to and from work, said recently retired army Capt. Bob Kennedy. In the 1990s, when the Somalia mission entangled the military in controversy, reservists were briefly told to wear civilian clothes in the community.

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“I think the idea was to protect the soldiers from harassment, essentially, in public – being accused of all kinds of unrealistic stuff.”

“In those days it was more about harassment than an actual violent attack on anyone.”

A policy of keeping uniforms only at armouries could be put in place if necessary, Kennedy said.

“It would not be a difficult thing to deal with. It’s just a question of every guy having a locker of his own at the armoury. That’s not hard to set up.”

British troops were told not to wear uniforms in public at the height of the Northern Ireland conflict in the 1970s. Bans have been imposed and lifted in the UK at various times since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

“After September 11, someone in Ottawa somewhere said not to wear uniforms in public, and they sort of hurriedly reversed that a day or two later because the senior heads said: no, we should be wearing uniforms in public,” Wattie said.

Three Toronto reserve units have scheduled training at downtown armouries tonight. Part-time soldiers in uniform are often seen on public transit in Toronto and other Canadian cities.

“The feeling seems to be that we shouldn’t be hiding at this particular moment,” Wattie said.


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