(With files by Will Peters-MyPGNow)
November 8th is the annual Indigenous Veterans Day, Canadians are recognizing Native soldiers and the barriers that they faced.
“Today, on Indigenous Veterans Day, we honour and celebrate the valiant service of Indigenous Peoples in missions across Canada and around the world,” said Murray Rankin, the Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, in a news release.
“Serving overseas or on the home front, in times of conflict, war and peace, we acknowledge the tremendous contributions and sacrifices made by Indigenous veterans in the Canadian Armed Forces.”
There have been an estimated 12,000 First Nations soldiers that have fought for Canada since World War I.
Many Indigenous people that served in the military had extra hurdles and challenges placed in their way.
One such example was Dominic “Dick” Patrick, a soldier in the second world war.
He returned home a decorated veteran, after being awarded the Military Medal for gallant and distinguished conduct after a battle in the village of Moerbrugge, in Belgium.
“When he got demobilized, he came back to Vanderhoof,” L’heidli T’enneh Elder Clifford Quah told My PG Now. “He went to the silver bird café and they booted him out, they said ‘we are not going to serve you, we are not going to serve Indians.’”
He was arrested 11 times for demanding equal treatment at that restaurant, Quah says he spent 10 months in jail.
This mistreatment lasted well beyond the World Wars.
“[It wasn’t] until 1994 that we were allowed to go to the national veterans monument in Ottawa, and they weren’t allowed to attend any of these Remembrance Day ceremonies,” Quah said.
“They were treated as second class citizens when they demobilized from the army. They went home to nothing.”
Remembrance Day ceremonies are planned throughout the Cariboo on Friday.