A Metis member of the Royal Canadian Navy was at the lawns of the B.C. legislature on Tuesday to mark Indigenous Veterans Day.
Nov. 8 is Indigenous Veterans Day honours the contributions and sacrifices made by First Nations, Inuit and Metis people in military service to Canada.
Aboriginal Veterans Day was Established in Manitoba in 1994. It has since spread across the country and is now known as Indigenous Veteran Day.
Lacking a ceremony on Vancouver Island, Steve Morrison, who is Metis and is an active Royal Canadian Navy service member, encouraged other Indigenous, Inuit and Metis people to join him a the cenotaph on the lawn of the provincial legislature at 11 a.m. Tuesday morning.
“This is a way we can say thank you to our ancestors and our family and those that are currently serving,” said Morrison in the shadow of the cenotaph.
“Indigenous history within the Canadian military is complicated and intertwined with joy and sorrow,” he said.
Morrison says the racism that Indigenous military members faced is mixed with pride in defending the country.
During the Second World War, Indigenous people had to choose between maintaining their Indigenous status or receiving full benefits.
Victor Flett, a 94-year-old Korean War veteran who volunteered for service in the Royal Canadian Navy, says he is proud to be a vet.
“I overlooked a lot of racism to try to get on with my career and I think I was quite successful,” he said. “I had a good career, I was happy.”
In a statement, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed his heartfelt gratitude for the integral role Indigenous peoples have played in the nation’s military history.
He also acknowledged the systematic racism Indigenous veterans endured while serving and vowed to ensure they receive the support they deserve.