Métis Veterans George Ricard and Guy Lafreniere observe a moment of silence at the
National Aboriginal Veterans Monument in Ottawa, November 8, 2019.
On a frosty Thursday morning in Ottawa dozens of individuals gathered at the base of the National Aboriginal Veterans Monument to await the arrival of two honoured guests: Métis World War II veterans George Ricard and Guy Lafreniere.
Métis Veteran Joseph Willmer Gagnon and MNOVC
President Brian Black
Welcomed by the sound of traditional Métis fiddles these heroic individuals (and their families) at long last, received the recognition they had been owed these past 70+ years from Canada’s federal government.
On November 8th, Indigenous Veterans Days, Métis citizens, leaders and delegates from across Canada met at this historic monument for the special ceremony and formal acknowledgment of Ricard and Lafreniere’s wartime contributions. A third veteran, Joseph Willmer Gagnon, was also recognized the following afternoon at Port Hope’s Royal Canadian Legion Branch 30 on November 9th.
In attendance at the Ottawa ceremony, were Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) President Margaret Froh, MNO Veterans Council President Brian Black, Métis National Council Minister of Veterans Affairs David Chartrand, Federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett, and the former Minister of Indigenous Services Seamus O’Regan.
“It is so special to have our Veterans recognized here, at the nation’s capital, on this day,” remarked MNO President Froh. “We owe these individuals a debt we can never truly repay. They say the Métis people are Canada’s forgotten people, but events like today prove our Métis Veterans will never be forgotten.”
“It’s been so important to have this special recognition of our Métis veterans,’’ said Minister Bennett. “Today really is a celebration of this final recognition and a sober acknowledgement of the fact they were left in the shadows for so long, as so many Métis stories have been.”
The ceremony follows September’s apology by the Federal Government acknowledging Canada’s history of neglect in responding to the needs of returning World War II Métis veterans. Many returning struggled with reintegration into civilian life and experienced difficulties in accessing the necessary supports and services previously promised them by the government.
In addition to receiving an official apology from Canada, each of the veterans at the ceremony were awarded cheques in the amount of $20,000—a gesture of reconciliation outlined in the Canada-Métis Nation Métis Veterans Recognition Payment Agreement.
As part of this agreement, the government committed $30 million to ensure the recognition of these Metis Veterans and their families. However, individual financial compensation is just one aspect of the agreement, the remainder of the funds will be invested in commemorative programs and services, and ultimately to ensure that the legacy of our Métis Veterans will continue for generations to come.
“Because it’s been so long, there are a lot of veterans that have passed and the legacy of their families and children and grandchildren is now being passed down,” explains Black. “Their memory needs to live on, so there will be commemorative events and programs that will be put together to support that legacy so that memory continues on and supports Métis veterans.”
The Métis Nation of Ontario Veteran’s Council (MNOVC) asks that if you know of a Métis veteran in your community, please contact MNOVC President Brian Black or your local MNOVC member.
Posted November 28, 2019