Ministers of Veterans Affairs, Indigenous Services, National Defence, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs mark Indigenous Veterans Day


Ottawa, ON On Indigenous Veterans Day, Remembrance Day, and all year long, we honour the service and sacrifice of First Nations, Inuit and Métis who have served Canada in uniform over the years.

From the country’s earliest days, more than 12,000 Indigenous Peoples have served in the military in times of war, military conflict, natural disaster and peace. For so many, enlisting required overcoming significant discrimination that persisted even after service with the denial of rights, benefits and commendations available to other Veterans.

Thousands of First Nations and Métis fought alongside local militias and British troops to defend Canada during the War of 1812. In the First World War, over 4,000 Indigenous service members made invaluable contributions to Canada’s war effort, earning at least 50 decorations for their courage on the battlefield. Francis Pegahmagabow, from the Wasauksing First Nation in in Ontario, became a renowned sniper and earned the Military Medal with two bars, making him one of the most highly decorated Canadian soldiers of the First World War.

In the Second World War, more than 3,000 First Nations, and many Inuit and Métis, served in diverse roles, including some unique ones. For example, men like Charles “Checker” Tomkins, Métis from Alberta, translated sensitive radio messages into the Cree language so they could not be understood by the enemy. In 2020, the Government of Canada recognized the unique contributions of Inuit from Nunavut communities, including Elder Qapik Attagutsiak, who voluntarily gathered animal bones and carcasses, which were then shipped to southern Canada to be made into munitions, aircraft glue and fertilizer.

Indigenous Peoples continue to make vital contributions to Canada’s military. The Canadian Rangers monitor the north and remote areas of our east and west coasts, and assist in local rescue operations. Indigenous Peoples have served in many recent conflicts, on other military operations, and in peace support missions around the world.


“Canadians owe an immense debt of gratitude to Indigenous Veterans. Even though this country sought to eradicate First Nations, Métis and Inuit cultures and languages, still they rose, fought and sacrificed in the name of Canada, overcoming obstacles and facing discrimination during and after service. Often in the face of this unfair, unequal treatment, they have performed outstanding deeds of courage in conflict and in peacetime. On Indigenous Veterans Day, Remembrance Day, and year round we honour their dedication, service and sacrifice to our country that all too often did not appreciate them.”

The Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence

“Today we are reminded of the great debt of gratitude we owe to Indigenous Veterans and their families. Whether here or abroad, Indigenous Peoples have fought on the front lines and have always stepped forward to serve, in spite of the complicated relationship with Canada, and the many ways this debt was unpaid. Today, we reflect on their bravery, sacrifices, and thank them for their immense contributions to our country.”

The Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Indigenous Services

“From the beaches of Vimy, to the shores of Dieppe, to the mountains of Afghanistan, Indigenous Veterans have served with honour and courage in the Canadian Armed Forces. Indigenous peoples are at the heart of Canada’s military history, and today we honour their service and sacrifice. Today, I encourage all Canadians to learn about the stories of Indigenous Veterans, so that they may never be forgotten.”

The Honourable Anita Anand, Minister of National Defence

“Indigenous Veterans have played a vital role within the Canadian Armed Forces in times of war, conflict and peace. On this day, we recognize the contributions and sacrifice of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Veterans in Canada, as well as Indigenous members of the Canadian military still serving in operations at home and abroad. Historically, Indigenous Veterans have been denied veteran rights and the Canadian government is committed to overcoming this discrimination. This year, the Government and Muskeg Cree Lake Nation reached a settlement for the 1919 Soldier Settlement Board Surrender specific claim, where almost 9,000 acres of the Nation’s reserve land was surrendered to First World War Veterans. Budget 2019 also committed $30 million to recognize the efforts and sacrifices of Métis Veterans. While these initiatives don’t undo our past wrongs, Indigenous Veterans are finally getting the appreciation they deserve.”

The Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations

“First Nations, Inuit and Métis have always been quick to heed the call to protect Canada in our collective time of need. Historically however, their actions have seldom been recognized or acknowledged. Together, they stood tall against advancing American forces in the War of 1812; fought shoulder to shoulder with allied troops in the mud and the misery at Ypres and Passchendaele, Belgium in the First World War; and again, on the sands of Juno Beach during the Second World War. Using their skills as hunters, trappers and interpreters, Indigenous Peoples gave unique contributions to Canada’s war efforts, like Elder Qapik Attagutsiak and other Nunavut Inuit Nunavummiut who gathered animal bones and carcasses that were eventually made into supplies for the war effort. Today, on this Indigenous Veterans Day, and every day, we recognize and honour the contributions of all Indigenous Veterans and remember those that made the ultimate sacrifice in fighting for a Canada that is true North, strong, and free.”

The Honourable Dan Vandal, Minister of Northern Affairs

Associated Links

Indigenous Veterans


Media Relations
Veterans Affairs Canada

Erika Lashbrook Knutson
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Media Relations
Department of National Defence

Daniel Minden
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of National Defence
Phone: 613-996-3100

Renelle Arsenault
Director of Communications
Office of the Honourable Marc Miller
Minister of Crown–Indigenous Relations   

Alison Murphy
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Indigenous Services

Kyle Allen
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Dan Vandal
Minister of Northern Affairs

Media Relations
Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada

Media Relations
Indigenous Services Canada

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