OTTAWA—Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer missed the ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy on Thursday so he could attend a University of Regina graduation where his family members received honorary degrees.
Scheer’s office confirmed that the Opposition leader declined an invitation to be part of the official Canadian delegation in Normandy so that he could go to the ceremony in Regina on Wednesday.
“Mr. Scheer’s brother-in-law and mother-in-law are receiving honorary degrees from the U of R this week and he will attend the ceremony,” press secretary Daniel Schow wrote Thursday in a statement to the Star.
“Mr. Scheer was invited but declined because of the family commitment. We offered to send (Conservative deputy leader) Lisa Raitt in his place but the (Prime Minister’s Office) declined. He will attend a D-Day ceremony in his riding.”
Scheer’s brother-in-law, former Seattle Seahawks punter Jon Ryan, and his mother-in-law, Barb Ryan, were each awarded an honorary doctor of laws from the University of Regina on Wednesday afternoon.
Ryan spent 12 seasons in the NFL and won a Super Bowl with the Seahawks in 2014, and now has a one-year deal with his hometown Roughriders. Barb Ryan is a prolific volunteer who was recognized for helping refugees, immigrants and international students find homes in Regina.
Canada sent an official delegation to Normandy for the 75th anniversary of D-Day, when 14,000 Canadians stormed the beaches with Allied forces on June 6, 1944. The Canadians suffered more than 1,000 casualties, including 359 deaths, during the battle.
This year’s ceremony is expected to mark the last major anniversary for which Canadian D-Day veterans will be in attendance.
The official delegation includes Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence McCauley, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, six parliamentarians and Sen. Robert Black. Phil McColeman, the Conservatives’ veterans’ affairs critic, and MP Steven Blaney are representing the Official Opposition at the ceremony.
In a statement on Facebook, Scheer said, “Canadians across this great country owe the freedom we enjoy to those courageous soldiers.
“We remember with pride the part that our brave men and women played in defeating Nazi tyranny,” he wrote, “and we hold in our hearts immense gratitude for the ultimate sacrifice made by so many Canadian soldiers.”
Alex Boutilier is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @alexboutilier