Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada Mary May Simon, laid a wreath in Ottawa today at a ceremony to pay respect to Indigenous and non-Indigenous veterans and to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the National Aboriginal Veterans Monument.
In her remarks to the audience, which included Indigenous leaders and veterans, and members of the Canadian Armed Forces., the Governor-General reminded Canadians about the contribution made to Canada’s military by aboriginal members.
Twenty years ago, on what’s now known as National Indigenous Peoples Day, my predecessor, the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, stood here to dedicate this monument to Indigenous veterans. On that occasion, she said that “Its message of respect and honour will travel in the four directions and be heard by all who listen. It is a message of remembrance; it is a Calling Home.”
I’m honoured today to answer that calling. To celebrate this monument, championed by Indigenous organizations, created by an Indigenous artist to honour Indigenous soldiers and peacekeepers.
And we do remember. Remember the soldiers who fought for our freedom and values. Who served far from home, in peacekeeping missions and in horrific wars.
We remember those who stayed home, families and loved ones who supported and sacrificed so that those in uniform could serve.
We remember those who came home, never the same.
And those who would never again see their ancestral lands.
We honour their legacy.
Consider: the “code talkers” of the Second World War, sending messages in Cree that couldn’t be intercepted and understood by the enemy. Indigenous languages literally saving lives.
Or consider Willard Bolduc, an Ojibwa airman from Ontario, who earned the Distinguished Flying Cross; Edith Anderson Monture, a nurse who saved lives at an American hospital base; the dedication of Canadian Rangers in the North.
Throughout history, Indigenous veterans have bravely served on land, sea and in the air, alongside allies, believing they could make a difference.
In the words of Mike Mountain Horse, a World War I veteran from Alberta. “When duty called, we were there, and when we were called forth to fight for the cause of civilization, our people showed all the bravery of our warriors of old.”
As governor general and commander-in-chief, I thank Indigenous veterans—all veterans—as well as active military members and everyone who has sacrificed for our country.
As an Indigenous person, I’m proud of all we have accomplished, and I look to the future with great hope.
Lest we forget. N’oublions jamais.
Thank you. Merci. Miigwetch. Nakurmiik.