A unit of soldiers from Toronto-area reserve units of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) were photographed carrying weapons in “full fighting order,” their magazines in place — but unloaded — at a Khalsa Day Parade that took place in Toronto on Sunday.
The photo was posted to Twitter by controversial author and columnist Tarek Fatah, who has written extensively about extremism.
The post drew over 2,000 re-tweets and over 5,000 likes.
The CAF confirmed its authenticity and said it is not normal for weapons to be carried at events in this way.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said in a statement that, “while the intentions to participate in this event were good, the choice that was made was inappropriate.
“I know that the commander of 4th division and other commanders will take appropriate action to ensure that something like this never happens again,” he said.
WATCH ABOVE: Sajjan reiterates unit of soldiers carrying weapons at the ready at parade was ‘inappropriate’
Soldiers with the 4 Canadian Division participate in a number of community and outreach events, “including parades such as the Khalsa Day Parade,” a CAF spokesman told Global News.
“Normally, weapons are not carried at such events,” he said.
The decision to have personnel in “full fighting order,” he said, was made after the commander of the 32 Canadian Brigade authorized participation in the parade, and assigned the task to the commanding officer of the Lorne Scots.
That officer issued the order detailing participation — “including authorizing unloaded weapon carriage and dress,” the spokesman said.
The 4 Canadian Division commander is following up with this unit and issuing “additional direction to the entire division prohibiting the carriage of weapons at similar events.”
Such displays have not been seen at other parades, such as Pride, or similar events.
This time, the commander of this unit authorized the display “in a misguided attempt to show a well-equipped CAF,” the spokesman said.
“It never happens at Pride or similar events because it is not appropriate,” he said.
“It was not appropriate in this instance either.”
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The rifle-toting soldiers appeared to be walking out of formation, the photo showed.
It’s typical for soldiers to march in such a fashion – but it’s not typical for them to carry weapons when they do this.
“Any parade in which weapons are carried would have to adhere to the Canadian Armed Forces Manual of Drill and Ceremonial,” the spokesman said.
One retired general officer who spoke to Global News was appalled at the image that the photo portrayed.
He suggested it was totally unprofessional and brought discredit to the Canadian Armed Forces and felt someone should be held to account.
Several military sources said it looked more like a show of force by troops on patrol in a conflict zone than a public parade in Toronto.