Today, November 8th, Canadians proudly mark Indigenous Veterans Day.
It is a day to commemorate the unique contributions and sacrifices that First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples have made serving in the Canadian Armed Forces.
From the First World War to the Korean War, and still very much today, Indigenous peoples have volunteered their diverse talents and skills, with more than 12,000 Indigenous women and men answering the call of duty to serve Canada with pride and honour.
Even though they donned the same uniform as their comrades-in-arms…
And upheld the same oath to defend Canada…
At home, they were denied the very rights and freedoms they fought to protect.
So as we remember their courage and determination during the world’s darkest hours, all Canadians should recognize the barriers, like racism, they overcame just so they could enlist.
Many of them served on the frontlines.
Many of them never returned home.
We honour those who made the ultimate sacrifice to defend the freedom we all enjoy today.
And we must do better to learn their stories.
Stories like that of Private Thomas Godchere, a member of the Anishinaabe First Nation, who fought valiantly and died at Vimy Ridge.
Or that Indigenous Veterans like Mary Greyeyes, who broke down barriers in the Canadian Armed Forces.
Or of Tommy Prince and his legendary bravery.
But, there are many others whose stories are not as well known.
For over a century, thousands of Indigenous peoples have stepped up and contributed their unique skills to the Canadian Armed Forces.
They have assumed leadership roles in fields across the CAF, from engineering to medicine, mechanics to systems specialists.
Today is a day for all Canadians to seek out their stories.
To celebrate each of their contributions and sacrifices.
And to honour their passion, dedication and service, which is a model for all of us.
Let us take the time to consider, commemorate, and celebrate the unique military contributions that Indigenous peoples have made for Canada and continue making today.
Let us thank them for their service.
Merci pour votre service.
Lest We Forget.