Today, Greg Rickford, Minister of Indigenous Affairs, issued the following statement marking Indigenous Veterans Day:
“Today, we honour the bravery, service, and sacrifice of First Nation, Inuit and Métis veterans who served during the First World War, Second World War, Korean War, and subsequent Canadian Forces’ actions around the globe.
Indigenous service members made great sacrifices to join war efforts, including leaving their families and communities for considerable lengths of time. Many also had to travel great distances on foot just to enlist, including William Semice who walked over 500 miles from Lake St. Joseph to Port Arthur, Ontario.
Throughout the great conflicts of the 20th century, it is estimated that over 12,000 First Nation, Inuit, and Métis people heeded the call to defend our freedom. Many Indigenous women served as nurses, air traffic controllers and radio operators during war time, including Edith (Anderson) Monture from Six Nations of the Grand River, who left her job as an elementary school nurse to tend to sick and wounded soldiers at a military hospital in France.
Indigenous service members received many decorations for their service and bravery, including Willard Bolduc, an Ojibwa airman who received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his valiant actions as an air gunner during the Second World War, as well as Huron Brant, a Mohawk from Ontario who earned a Military Medal.
We will never forget the service and sacrifice of Indigenous veterans, to whom we owe an unending debt of gratitude. There are several places to visit and learn more about Indigenous veterans’ contributions, including the National Aboriginal Veterans Monument in Ottawa, which just celebrated its 20th anniversary, the Francis Pegahmagabow Monument in Parry Sound, commemorating the most decorated Indigenous Canadian to fight in the First World War, as well as the Nipissing First Nation Cenotaph in Garden Village, Ontario and the Alderville First Nation Cenotaph in Alderville, Ontario. I encourage everyone to learn more about the proud Indigenous military service history in Canada, and to participate in events commemorating Indigenous Veterans Day.