Senator Reta Gordon and MNO Veteran Rene Leonard at the National
Aboriginal Veterans’ Monument on November 11, 2014Every year on November 11, Métis from across the homeland participate in Remembrance Day Ceremonies. Being part of these ceremonies is very important to Métis because we have contributed to the defense of Canada as far back as the War of 1812 as well as both World Wars, the Korean Conflict, peacekeeping missions and most recently, Afghanistan. Over the years, many Métis have served and many have made the ultimate sacrifice. By making the Métis presence felt at Remembrance Day services, we show our respect for all Veterans and we remind all Canadians of Métis service and sacrifices.
Since 2004, the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) has laid a wreath at the National War Memorial in Ottawa during National Remembrance Day ceremonies. In most years, the wreath has been laid by MNO Executive Senator Reta Gordon and a Métis Veteran. This important gesture on behalf of all MNO citizens is performed in good weather and bad because it is important to recognize our many Métis Veterans who gave and continue to give so much in securing and sustaining the rights and freedoms that we all enjoy. Recent tragic events including those at the National War Memorial itself, reminded all of us that members of our Armed Forces put themselves in harm’s way every day to protect the lives and liberties of their fellow Canadians.
This year Senator Reta was joined for the first time by Métis veteran Rene Roland Joseph Leonard. Rene was born in 1929 in St. Boniface, Manitoba. A descendent of Louis Riel, Rene was always aware of his Métis identity and joined the Métis Nation of Ontario in 1993, the year the MNO was founded. He served in the Royal Canadian Engineers from 1951 to 1980, including tours in both Cyprus and Germany. On November 5, 2014, Rene was presented with both the Louis Riel Medal and the Batoche Medal from the MNO Veterans Council.
According to Rene’s daughter Catherine Vieau, he never thought in his wildest dreams that he would be asked to honour his ancestors and brothers and sisters, both past and present by representing the MNO at the National War Memorial. He considers it a privilege and was at a loss of words to express what it meant to him.
On November 11, following protocol, Rene, as a veteran, presented the MNO wreath to Senator Reta who then laid the wreath on the Memorial. Senator Reta’s father and her nine uncles all participated in World War II. Then later in the 1950s, her four brothers also served in the military including MNO Senator George Kelly, who passed away in 2013. “It is good to let everyone know the Métis are here and that we support Remembrance Day,” explained Senator Reta.
Senator Reta and Rene also participated in a ceremony at the National Aboriginal Veterans Monument prior to the National Remembrance Day Ceremony. The National Aboriginal Veterans Monument is located a short distance away from the National Cenotaph and is an important symbol of the contributions of Métis and other Aboriginal veterans to Canada. MNO citizens, like Senator Reta and Rene, who participate in Remembrance Day events are continuing to keep an important tradition vital and alive.