Commander Canadian Army marks Indigenous Veterans Day

Article / November 8, 2022 / Project number: 22-0061

November 8, 2022 – Ottawa – National Defence / Canadian Armed Forces

Lieutenant-General Jocelyn Paul, Commander Canadian Army, issued the following statement to mark Indigenous Veterans Day:

As Defence Team Champion for Indigenous Peoples, it is my privilege to be the voice of the Department of National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) as we mark Indigenous Veterans Day.

While some names are well-known - Francis Pegahmagabow, Mary Greyeyes Reid, Tommy Prince – the full picture of how Indigenous Peoples have contributed to the defence of Canada throughout its history is often not fully recognized.

They played a leading role defending of the land that would become Canada, from New France until the War of 1812.

Later, during the World Wars, thousands of Indigenous Peoples stepped forward to serve their country – even as it failed to see or treat them as equals.

From Korea, to the Balkans, to Afghanistan, they have continued to serve proudly.

This history is central to why we offer Indigenous veterans their own space each year during Veterans’ Week. Their distinctive contributions call for a distinctive commemoration.

Honouring that history is important, but we can also honour them by looking forward to the future.

Former National Truth and Reconciliation Commission (NTRC) Chair Murray Sinclair famously said, “Education is the key to reconciliation. Education got us into this mess, and education will get us out of it.”

I believe education and dialogue remain the best tools to ensure that our country continues to progress and offer the best quality of life to all, regardless of their origins.

Education, and the opportunities it brings, are key to improving quality of life for many Indigenous Peoples. I have had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with participants in several of the CAF’s Indigenous Programs this year.

In them, I see the leaders of tomorrow, whether in the CAF or elsewhere. Each year, a new group returns home with skills - leadership, critical thinking, working with others - and knowledge that can help their communities grow.

Indigenous knowledge is front and centre in these programs. Graduates benefit from the teachings of experts in areas ranging from spirituality to traditional crafts.

Among the NTRC’s calls to action are education and the preservation and revitalization of Indigenous languages. Reconciliation is complex and demands something from all of us, but I believe these programs are making a contribution.

Today, let us take note of the positive as well as the mistakes of the past and collectively work to leave an environment for future generations that is more inclusive. Let's embrace diversity together, keep the dialogue going, stay open-minded, and focus on what unites us rather than what divides us.

As I like to say, the CAF is one of several families I belong to. And I believe the more family connections we make as a nation the better. By incorporating the best parts of them into one, we can continue to make positive change.

Lieutenant-General Jocelyn Paul, Commander Canadian Army and Defence Team Champion for Indigenous Peoples

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