Minister of Indigenous Relations Rick Wilson issued the following statement on National Aboriginal Veterans Day:
“On Nov. 8, we honour the thousands of Indigenous veterans from the First and Second World Wars, the Korean War, Afghanistan and other Canadian Armed Forces efforts. For many reasons, Indigenous veterans deserve our gratitude.
“These Indigenous men and women overcame challenges, including travelling far from home to enlist and leaving their families and loved ones to afford us peace, freedom, and all the rights and privileges of a democracy.
“Indigenous veterans also contributed their valuable skills, often working as successful snipers and reconnaissance scouts who secretly gathered information on the enemy. Others created and interpreted radio code in Indigenous languages to evade the enemy.
“Many of these skilled veterans came from Alberta. To name a few, in the First World War, Alex Decoteau, Canada’s and Edmonton’s first Indigenous police officer, used his skills as a track and field Olympian to serve as a communications trench runner.
“Also an avid athlete, Wally Sinclair, an Elder from Sawridge First Nation, served with the Canadian Armed Forces for 10-plus years and the Royal Canadian Signal Corps as a lineman in communications. He also worked with government to help ensure that services for Indigenous communities were appropriate for their political, cultural, spiritual and social heritage.
“Sadly, many of these veterans died in combat; others suffered from trauma and injuries, only to continue facing discrimination in their homeland. They deserve our gratitude for selflessly sacrificing their lives and well-being for our freedom.
“On behalf of our government, thank you.”