National Indigenous History Month and RCAF reflections

June 29, 2022 - Royal Canadian Air Force

The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) honours all First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, and their valuable past and present contributions to this land. For decades, Indigenous People have played an important role in the RCAF.

Our proud history and heritage in the RCAF keeps us grounded, reminds us of the sacrifices and incredible accomplishments of those who came before us, and defines the Air Force we serve today. However, we must also acknowledge that today we are not perfect, and there were times in our past when our words and actions were wrong, racist, and disrespectful.

The use of Indigenous customs and symbols by the RCAF without consultation was inappropriate and we regret it took far too long for us to understand the impacts of our actions and decisions. We understand that the credibility of the RCAF was undermined, as well as that of the Indigenous Peoples who served and sacrificed with us.

Acknowledging this disrespect is an important step for the RCAF, as we collectively focus on reconciliation and aim to build deeper ties with Indigenous communities across Canada, as well as within our organization. That is why, as we near the end of National Indigenous History Month, we would like to speak about our past and talk about where we are going.

While we cannot change the past, we can make important changes for the future. As an example, units that have used Indigenous terms as part of their identity in the past, have been appropriately renamed in recent years. One such example is Apache Flight within 2 Canadian Forces Flying Training School, which was renamed Apollo Flight. Similarly, last year we suspended the use of RCAF heraldic crests that contained Indigenous images and symbols until a fulsome review and consultation with Indigenous groups can be completed. This work remains ongoing and will take time, but is the right thing to do to reaffirm our commitment to respect the dignity of all persons.

There are other historic examples of cultural appropriation and discriminatory behaviors in our past. We know of some inappropriate activities that took place at one of our training establishments many years ago, when members of Apache Flight wore Indigenous headdress and face paint to celebrate specific course milestones. For this, we offer our sincere apologies and promise to work hard to regain the trust and confidence of Indigenous People across Canada by remaining steadfast in our commitment to ensure inappropriate behaviors like these are no longer tolerated.

Today, we work hand-in-hand with the Defence Aboriginal Advisory Group (DAAG), and are advocating for the creation of a DAAG at every Wing in the RCAF to ensure our decisions and approaches include Indigenous perspectives. We recognize the need for greater engagement and this summer will launch a new RCAF Program for Indigenous Youth that will be based out of 4 Wing Cold Lake. We are also very proud of an initiative known as Eagle’s Wings by a flight instructor at 3 Canadian Forces Flying Training School to provide flight school training for Indigenous youth.

That said, we have work ahead of us to increase Indigenous representation within our ranks in the RCAF. We are not where we need to be, but are committed to getting there. We need the skills, expertise and perspectives of Indigenous Canadians now more than ever, because an inclusive team will make the RCAF stronger.

RCAF members are encouraged to recognize and celebrate the contributions of Indigenous People throughout the Canadian Armed Forces, today and every day.

Lieutenant-General A.D. Meinzinger, Commander Royal Canadian Air Force

Chief Warrant Officer W.J. Hall, Royal Canadian Air Force Chief Warrant Officer

 

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