Reflection on Indigenous Veterans Day and Remembrance Day

The Métis Veterans Legacy Program honours all Métis Veterans and active service members, among their Canadian brothers and sisters in arms, who have and continue to willingly put themselves in harm’s way to protect our great nation. This Remembrance Day, the MVLP encourages all Canadians to celebrate our Veterans for their selfless service to safeguard our freedom and democracy. November 11th is a day to recognize their unwavering bravery and dedication and the sacrifices our Veterans and their families made to guarantee a safe way of life for all Canadians. 

The Métis have a long history of fighting systems of tyranny and oppression to protect our Homeland. As a People, many aspects of our culture have made us skilled servicemen and women in times of global conflict. Our traditional hunting and trapping approaches prepared us with the skills to track and fight our adversaries and protect our fellow company. These qualities gave us distinct strategic advantages over our enemies in our Homeland and overseas. Historically, we have fought every battle with peaceful democratic values at the forefront, from the Victory at Frog Plain in 1816 to fighting Canada for the very existence of our nation in the late 1800s and then fighting on behalf of Canada in every conflict since WWII.

Given the historical involvement of our traditional skills and values in times of conflict, it is vital that we have a day to honour our Métis Veterans. On November 8th, the Métis Veterans Legacy Program observed Indigenous Veterans Day to reflect on their contributions and the unique consequences our Métis Veterans and their families experienced simply for being Métis despite their heroic efforts. National Indigenous Veterans Day was observed for the first time in Winnipeg on November 8th, 1994, to create a space where Métis, First Nations and Inuit peoples could gather to celebrate their Veteran community by honouring them through culturally specific traditions that often weren’t welcome Remembrance Day ceremonies.

It is well known that over the 20th century, Métis people faced a wide range of discrimination for their identity. Despite this, our people enlisted in the Canadian Armed Forces by the numbers to protect and serve a country that didn’t reciprocate such humanity. 

On the Battlefields, racial divides did not influence our soldiers. Métis servicemembers were equal to their non-Métis counterparts and were united simply by performing the duty that Canada had asked of them. Our soldiers, many of whom were just young boys at the time, fought to preserve the freedoms of people they had never met, who lived halfway across the world. Nevertheless, Canadian soldiers of all backgrounds banded together to fight the enemy and secure peace and freedom for the allied nations. Unfortunately, cultural discrimination awaited them when they returned home despite this unity on the battlefields. 

Despite the monumental contributions they have made as Canadian soldiers, our Veterans have routinely been denied equal treatment to their non-Métis counterparts for decades. Upon enlistment, all Canadian soldiers were promised an economic head-start to promote their reintegration into Canadian society by guaranteeing financial assistance for living expenses, business development, education, and other necessities to maintain a good quality of life in Canada.

When our People enlisted, there wasn’t an opportunity to self-identify as Métis, which was often a relief for those who hid their identities in fear of racial discrimination at the time but was simultaneously a disenfranchisement of our culture by forcing our Veterans into either Euro-Canadian or First Nations identities as Canadian soldiers.

The lack of cultural recognition upon enlistment created significant systemic challenges for our Veterans upon return from service because Canada refused to honour the promises it made to Métis Veterans by not affording them the support and benefits that were routinely given to their non-Métis counterparts. Canada allowed our Métis Veterans to slip through the cracks into an appalling cycle of generational poverty and poor mental health, leading to disproportionate rates of chronic illness, problems with addiction and homelessness, as well as an overall poorer quality of life than they were promised in return for their sacrifices for our country. 

The MVLP exists to recognize the consequences that our Veterans have faced and try to make things right by them by commemorating their service and sacrifice by preserving their legacies for generations to come. 

For the Métis, both Indigenous Veterans Day and Remembrance Day are special moments of the year when our community comes together to express our gratitude for our Veterans and show them that we are so grateful for their heroic contributions to our country and show them that our community will always be there for them just as they have always been there for us. 

We ask you to join us in remembering and preserving the legacies of our Métis Veterans and promoting their heroic contributions all year round. 

These are our heroes – today, tomorrow, and forever. 

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