Joseph Lunda recalls choking back tears while teaching high school students about the contributions of Canadian soldiers in the First and Second World Wars.
A historian, he immigrated to Canada from the Democratic Republic of Congo 37 years ago, and became a Canadian history teacher in Nova Scotia.
“Any time I’m talking about a site where Canadians fought, all the time tears were coming,” he told Global News at the Remembrance Day Ceremony in Dartmouth.
“Why? Because I remember what these people have done for all of us to benefit (from) — the liberty, the freedom — in this country.”
Lunda is one of many Canadian immigrants who felt hurt by comments from Don Cherry suggesting not enough newcomers wear poppies, and therefore don’t support veterans.
Cherry made the complaint during his Coach’s Corner segment on Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday, and has since received an abundance of backlash, including calls for his resignation.
Lunda, who now teaches at Université Sainte-Anne, attended the Remembrance Day Ceremony with his family. He said not wearing a poppy is not necessarily an indication that one doesn’t support members of the Canadian Armed Forces, past or present.
“Let’s say I have it on my chest and it falls down, and I meet Don Cherry. He’s going to tell me I’m not supporting veterans?” he said. “You see I am here at this memorial. Why am I here? Because I support.”
Others agreed with Lunda and spoke out against the hockey commentator’s suggestion.
Gerry White, a veteran of both Royal Canadian Navy and RCMP, said it’s “pretty straightforward” — Cherry’s comments were “out of line.”
“I won’t say disgusting, (but) I guess I already did,” White told Global News. “I don’t think that was a comment that’s shared by the large majority of Canadians…
“One of the rights we fought for was your right to wear a poppy or not wear a poppy. It’s pretty straightforward.”
Dartmouth-Cole Harbour MP Darren Fisher said he was “very disappointed” in Cherry’s Saturday night rant and said Canada is a country made up of immigrants. The new federal government in Ottawa has a responsibility to unite Canadians, he added, in the face of anti-immigrant sentiments.
“We hear it occasionally and it’s very disappointing every time we hear it. This is not a time to be divisive in Canada, this is a time to be united,” he explained.
“Look at the crowds here today. This is a beautiful, beautiful day to honour our veterans — the women and men who served Canada.”
“I think Canadians get it more and more.”
Fisher said he’d like to see all Canadians show the same level of support for veterans, not just on Remembrance Day, but every day.
Cherry has yet to apologize for his comments over the weekend. Late on Monday Sportsnet confirmed that Cherry had stepped down from his role on Hockey Night in Canada.
“Following further discussions with Don Cherry after Saturday Night’s Broadcast, it has been decided it is the right time for him to immediately step down,” said Sportsnet’s president Bart Yabsley in a statement.
“During the broadcast, he made divisive remarks that do not represent our values or what we stand for,” said Yabsley in a statement.
—With files from Hannah Jackson