For nine generations, Sean Smith’s family has served in the Canadian Armed Forces.
It’s what makes Remembrance Day so important to him and the people he holds closest. It’s also what made the disruption at the end of Thursday’s informal ceremony in Kelowna all the more galling.
His frustration during that moment is available for all to see in video footage of him losing his temper at the woman who broke the solemnity of the Kelowna ceremony when she took the mic to push her views against COVID-19 mandates.
With his military medals on full display he marched up to her and said, “Hey, lady. Take a look at these. (Today) is not the (expletive) day.”
“I was listening to her go on and I couldn’t leave it alone,” he said. “I had to say something… Remembrance Day means everything to me and I am watching this woman desecrate it in front of my face.”
Smith’s dad was with him and he was just as angry.
“If he wasn’t pushing 80 years old he probably would have been in the same state I was,” he said.
Smith wasn’t aware that his moment of frustration would have been filmed, let alone travel across the country. But so far the reaction has been positive. If anything, he wishes his language was a bit less salty.
“The veteran community was behind me 110 per cent. I sat down with some of the guys from my old regiment with the BC Dragoons and we had a chance to share stories,” he said.
“When the videos hit, they were all very supportive.”
So were other people in the pub, and family members across the country that have seen it since.
“This was, just from the get-go, a plan to take advantage of an audience. That set me off, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe this is happening,” Smith said, adding that he saw them setting up audio equipment before the veterans laid their wreaths and saw the man in Kelowna’s infamous racist rant wandering around the crowd filming what happened.
“It’s like going to somebody’s funeral or wake and turning it into a rally for yourself. This is a day where I and my fellow veterans remember those who we’ve served with and those who we lost. ….It’s gobsmacking to me that they would have the audacity to absolutely corrupt the meaning of it because they haven’t got a clue as to what it actually means. It’s about remembrance. Not about politics or anything they thought it was.”
If he had the chance he’d do it all again, he said — maybe even go the extra step of explaining the hypocrisy of whingeing about freedoms being lost while demonstrating so many.
“They took advantage of something that they fully they don’t understand to hijack it and get that message out there… I think they probably damaged whatever their cause is more than supported it,” he said.
Kelowna RCMP is currently trying to get video footage of the incident for their investigation.
“Demonstrators interrupted the assembly and RCMP officers attended to keep the peace,” said the police press release.
“Kelowna RCMP officers support a person or group’s right to protest, but, when they choose to willfully interrupt the assembly of citizens at a Remembrance Day ceremony, this is a step too far,” said Insp. Adam MacIntosh.
“The Kelowna RCMP will be fully investigating this event to determine what offence, criminal or otherwise, may have been committed and if appropriate, the submission of charges or fines.”
The whole incident has also attracted the ire of Kelowna’s mayor.
“I’m completely disgusted by it. The fact that they would choose Remembrance Day, a day where we are to recognize the fallen and those who have fought for the very freedoms to allow them to protest, to me, is just so out of touch,” Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran said.
“There are places that are just off-limits for this kind of ridiculousness and today would be one of those days where this is not OK to do.”
For those who don’t want to heed that warning, Basran had another message.
“First of all, what are you thinking? You owe an apology to this community,” he said.
“And quite frankly, if this is how you’re going to behave, we don’t want you here. Find a different place to live.”