OTTAWA, ON, Sept. 13, 2023 /CNW/ - The full story of Canada's long military history includes many contributions from First Nations, Inuit and Métis people. They sacrificed so much to safeguard our peace and freedom?we owe it to them to ensure they get the recognition they deserve.
Earlier this year, a group of Canadian, Indigenous and Dutch individuals created the Indigenous Legacy Project, a research and remembrance based initiative to identify and mark the graves of Indigenous soldiers buried in cemeteries across the Netherlands. The Liberation of the Netherlands was Canada's last major contribution to helping the Allies to victory during the Second World War. More than one million Canadians and Newfoundlanders served in the conflict?over 3,000 of them were Indigenous.
Veterans Affairs Canada is recognizing the importance of this initiative by supporting a delegation to the Netherlands. There, they will honour, acknowledge and feast the spirit of the deceased Indigenous soldiers through traditional ceremony, to recognize the contributions of Indigenous Peoples in the Second World War and thank the group responsible for the Indigenous Legacy Project.
The delegation includes family members and representatives from 13 of the recently identified Indigenous soldiers, Elders, representatives from Aboriginal Veterans Autochtones, and the Deputy Minister of Veterans Affairs Canada, Paul Ledwell, on behalf of the Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence. This is an opportunity for those connected to the Indigenous soldiers to honour their ancestors and reconnect with their shared history.
"It is a true privilege to get to know the stories of these brave soldiers. No matter the barrier that the government had put in place, Indigenous Peoples have always stepped forward to serve. They fought in important battles that we still remember today. They sacrificed so much to safeguard our peace and freedom. For so many, enlisting required leaving everything behind and overcoming significant discrimination that persisted even after service with the denial of rights, benefits and commendations available to other Veterans."
The Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence
"Members of the Aboriginal Veterans Autochtones stand in silence to commemorate the loss of those Indigenous soldiers who died during the Second World War. During conflict, soldiers, regardless of skin color, religious beliefs or sexual orientation were equals and they died in the name of freedom. For those Indigenous family members attending this is a first step in reconciliation for past hardships and with hope, we shall move forward in the quest for equality."
Robert Thibeau, Aboriginal Veterans Autochtones
"We've searched all over Holland for First Nations, Inuit and Métis soldiers buried in the region. After an outpouring of interest, and much collaboration, we've been able to identify 81 Indigenous soldiers so far. It's a privilege to welcome some of their descendants to our country as we recognize and commemorate their many sacrifices."
Martin Reelick, President, Royal Canadian Legion Branch 005
SOURCE Veterans Affairs Canada