by Carlito Pablo on Nov 6, 2013
“We just finished celebrating 200 years of defending the country, starting back in 1812,” Blackwolf told the Straight by phone from his association’s office in Victoria.
He’s proud that Natives stood with the British in the War of 1812 against the Americans, a defining moment in Canada’s history as a nation. “It made the difference of us, this country, not being the U.S. right now,” Blackwolf said. “That’s where it starts.”
From the 19th-century Boer Wars in today’s South Africa to the two world wars that followed, the Korean conflict in the 1950s, and the Gulf War of the 1990s, thousands of aboriginals served in the Canadian military.
It’s a tradition that continues today. As of April 2013, according to federal government figures, First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people make up more than two percent of the combined regular and reserve Canadian Armed Forces. At least 2,000 Natives are in the military.
It wasn’t until 1960 that Natives were granted the right to vote.
Many who came back from the first and second world wars and the Korean War found out that they had to fight some more, this time for benefits that were given to non-Native soldiers but were denied First Nations people.
In 2003, the federal government delivered a compensation package to rectify this injustice, but it’s one that Blackwolf said is incomplete because the Métis were not included in the reparation.
“The Métis weren’t recognized at all, so in most cases, they didn’t receive anything,” Blackwolf said.
In Vancouver, Aboriginal Veterans Day observances start on Friday (November 8) at 9 a.m. at the Carnegie Community Centre (401 Main Street). A march to the Victory Square war memorial follows, with a wreath-laying at the cenotaph.
The celebration comes three days ahead of Remembrance Day on November 11.