First Nations, Metis and Inuit vets honoured on Indigenous Veterans Day ceremonies

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Published November 8, 2021 at 11:56 am

Flags on federal buildings flew at full-mast last night for the first time since the end of May, only to be lowered at sunrise today for Indigenous Veterans Day.

Indigenous Veterans Day is a day of remembrance and commemoration of the contributions of Indigenous veterans in the First and Second World Wars, as well as the Korean War. This Indigenous Veterans Day, communities and school boards across the country expressed gratitude for the contributions Indigenous veterans have made to Canada and the world.

‘National Aboriginal Veterans Day’ began in Winnipeg in 1994 when Indigenous veterans were not recognized in Remembrance Day activities and is now celebrated in many communities across Canada. More than 12,000 Indigenous people are estimated to have volunteered in all three wars, including 7,000 First Nations members, and approximately 300 died during these conflicts.

First Nations, Inuit and Metis people were not eligible for conscription because they were not citizens of Canada (they were also unable to vote), but many volunteered despite the challenges they faced, including traveling long distances from remote communities to enlist, learning a new language (English), and coping with racism. Indigenous people were not allowed to join the Canadian Air Force until 1942 and the Canadian Navy until 1943. Both men and women enlisted, serving as soldiers, nurses and in other roles. Many served with distinction, winning medals for bravery in action

Governor-General Mary Simon – Canada’s first Indigenous Governor-General – also honoured Indigenous veterans in September by laying a ceremonial wreath at the National Aboriginal Veterans Monument in Ottawa.

“As governor-general and commander-in-chief, I thank Indigenous veterans – all veterans – as well as active military members and everyone who has sacrificed for our country. As an Indigenous person, I’m proud of all we have accomplished, and I look to the future with great hope.”

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