Métis Veterans travel to France for Juno Beach Memorial Unveiling

Ottawa, ON – November 6, 2009 — When the Allied Forces stormed the beaches of Normandy in the push to liberate Nazi occupied France during the Second World War, hundreds of Métis from Canada were among the ranks. Some were killed, many were wounded and many survived. The survivors returned to Canada – but only in recent years have their significant sacrifices been recognized.

On November 11, a memorial, dedicated to the Métis who served will be unveiled at Courseulles-sur-Mer, France. The memorial includes an exhibit highlighting Métis culture and the contributions of Métis soldiers, aircrew and sailors during both World Wars. It will also feature a Red River Cart, one of the most widely recognized symbols of the Métis Nation.

Over a dozen Métis veterans from across Canada will be in France to take part in the Remembrance Day Dedication Ceremony. They will join National Métis Council President Clem Chartier, Manitoba Métis President and MNC Minister for Veterans Affairs David Chartrand, the Honourable Chuck Strahl, Minister for Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and non-Status Indians.

The Métis Nation of Ontario will be proudly represented by World War 2 Veterans Don Fowler and Joseph Gagnon. Maurice Sarrazin ,Chair of the MNO Veterans Council and MNO Youth Representative Nicholas Callaghan will also be part of the delegation.

The MNO has also sent Medals of Appreciation to all MNO Veterans. The Medals acknowledges the contribution of Métis citizens in protecting and defending the rights and freedoms that all Canadians enjoy. It is symbolic of the efforts of Louis Riel who was forced to take up arms to protect the rights of Métis people and paid the ultimate price.

Ontario Métis Betrans Bios:

Donn Fowler

Métis Veteran Donald (Donn) Fowler was born near Peterborough, Ontario. His family moved to Kingston, where he attended Kingston Collegiate Vocational Institute until 10th Grade when war broke out. At 14 years old, Fowler enlisted in the army after convincing his recruiting officer that he was about to turn 18 and hoped his two years as a bugler with the Princess of Wales Own Regiment and firearm training would also help.

He completed a year of training in Canada before being posted overseas in July of 1941. He remained in England until after the allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944. From there, he arrived with a wave of reinforcements on Juno Beach.

During his time in the military, Fowler served in Belgium, Holland, and Germany in the 1st Batallion of the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders. His father, Herbert Fowler, also served in WWII in the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery. His grandfather, Alfred, served in this same outfit during WWI and the Boer War.

He returned to Canada in 1945 just days before his 20th birthday, He completed his high school education under a defence department program created to help returning veterans and also received a war service gratuity unavailable to native servicemen. Fowler, at this time, was unaware of his Métis heritage.

Fowler attended Queen’s University but stopped his education when he found work at Brockville’s Automatic Electric where he eventually became supervisor of pricing. While in Brockville, he married Eva Hynes. The two have a son, Malcolm, who works as an oil instructor in Texas.

It wasn’t until the late 1970s when Fowler became interested in finding out more about his great-grandparents that he stumbled upon his Métis heritage. He discovered that his great-grandmother Margaret Fowler’s aboriginal lineage dated back to 1788, back to the Red River Métis community in Manitoba. He has been a card-carrying Métis citizen since 2007.

For his servitude, Fowler has received a Canadian Forces Decoration, the Queen’s Jubilee Medal, 3 National Aboriginal Veterans Association medals and 3 other post-war medals.

Joseph Gagnon

Métis Veteran Joseph Gagnon joined the army on April 26th, 1941, beginning active duty on May 2nd. When he left Canada in June of the same year, he was only 16-years-old. Four years later, he returned as a Lance corporal. Prior to his servitude, he worked in lumber camps and continued this during his time in the army where he worked in forestry core. He didn’t serve on the front lines but provided a service just as important, delivering supplies to the guards on duty.

In August of 1945, he returned to Canada and left the army, resuming his work in Maniwaki at the lumber camp.

During his servitude, he married Doreen Davies. The two married in 1942, making Gagnon the first Canadian Soldier to be married in Stockton, England. A year following Gagnon’s return to Canada, in 1946, Davies travelled to Canada on the Queen Mary to be with her husband. The two have a son and daughter who were both born in England. His son is now a pastor and proud Métis Nation of Ontario citizen. His daughter is a retired Registered Nurse.

Gagnon comes by his military history honestly and has proudly passed it on. His father, Henry Holinger, fought in France during WWI. His son, David, was active in the Navy during the Cold War and his grandson served in Bosnia with the British Navy.

For his servitude, Gagnon was awarded the Defence Medal, the Canadian Voluntary Medal and the War Medal 1939-1945.

For further information please contact:

Monique Richard

Executive Assistant

PH: 613-498-1488