Commander Canadian Army marks Indigenous Veterans Day

Statement / November 4, 2020

November 8, 2020 – Ottawa – National Defence / Canadian Armed Forces

Lieutenant-General Wayne Eyre, Commander Canadian Army, issued the following statement to mark National Indigenous Veterans Day:

“As Defence Team Champion for Indigenous Peoples, I am proud to be speaking on behalf of the Canadian Armed Forces on this important day – a day for giving thanks to the men and women of Canada’s First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities for their service and sacrifices.

“It is fitting that we honour our Indigenous veterans with a day of their own. Not only because of their distinct and impressive achievements as soldiers and peacekeepers, but also because many of them chose to stand in defence of a nation that did not treat them as equals.

 “As the historical record shows, Indigenous soldiers made impressive and important contributions nonetheless. Individually, we celebrate figures such Louis Norwest, and Francis Pegahmagabow, whose bravery and sharpshooting acumen earned them Military Medals and the deep admiration of Canadians during the First World War.

“Collectively speaking, federal government statistics from the time indicate some 4,000 Indigenous Peoples enlisted. And they did so in numbers equal to, and often greater than, the general population. And this is likely an underestimation as Inuit, Métis, and non-status Indigenous soldiers were not among those counted.

“At the outbreak of the Second World War, Canada’s Indigenous veterans still had reason to be discontented but enlistment numbers from their communities were again strong, and would grow as the war progressed. And even those deemed too old for overseas service took on vital roles at home.

“Joe Dreaver of the Mistawasis Cree Band, who earned a Military Medal at Ypres, served with the Veterans Guard while his three sons and two daughters went overseas. Ojibwa Great War veteran John McLeod’s story is similar. He too served in the Veterans Guard while his six sons and one daughter went overseas. Two of the McLeod boys were killed and two wounded in action.

“In total, some 3,000 Indigenous Peoples contributed to the fight – most of those as infantry soldiers.

“In all, more than 12,000 of Canada’s Indigenous Peoples served in the major conflicts of the 20th century – from the World Wars, to Korea, to many peacekeeping missions the world over.

“Their unique skills and perspectives continue to enrich the Canadian Armed Forces today. I, along with all our senior leaders, remain committed to the cause of creating an institution that welcomes and nurtures those attributes as we strive to better reflect the Canadian cultural mosaic.

“Please join me in honouring Indigenous Veterans today.”

Lieutenant-General Wayne Eyre
Commander Canadian Army and Defence Team Champion for Indigenous Peoples

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