Indigenous Veterans Day and Remembrance Day

By: The Hon. Jane Cordy

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Red tulips, Ottawa

Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, I rise today to acknowledge Remembrance Day and Indigenous Veterans Day, both taking place next week.

It would be very difficult to find someone who is not in some way connected to one of these days. Most families have had someone in service, or have lost someone who has served in some capacity or another. In my family, both my father, Private Lauchie MacKinnon, and my brother Commander Charlie MacKinnon served in the Armed Forces. I am proud of the contributions they have made in their service to Canada.

As we honour and remember those who have lost their lives, let us not forget those who have returned from war with scars, both visible and invisible. We must keep veterans at the forefront of our minds throughout the year — not just in November.

I would like to highlight, once again, the wonderful work done by VETS Canada. VETS Canada offers many programs and services from coast to coast to coast in support of veterans across the country. What began as assistance for homeless veterans has evolved into providing support to those facing difficulties of any kind. This can include anything from help in affording a grocery or power bill, to help for those facing an emotional or mental health crisis. The organization consists of just shy of 1,500 active volunteers, most of whom are ex-military or RCMP.

Of particular interest is the Guitars for Vets program that puts gently used guitars in the hands of veterans or still-serving members suffering from PTSD or other service-related disabilities. This program also arranges access for them to free lessons, and the opportunity to participate in songwriting workshops. Past guest teachers have included Alan Doyle and Séan McCann of Great Big Sea. Alan Doyle and Premier Andrew Furey have also generously contributed to Guitars for Vets through their Dollar A Day program.

I would also like to acknowledge the sacrifice made by military families as they live for so long without their loved ones near. Though times and technology have changed from the days of letters across the Atlantic, and we can more easily connect, it is still never the same as a physical hug, or seeing a smiling face in the stands of a hockey arena or in the audience of a school play.

Honourable senators, when you take a moment of reflection — on November 8 and November 11 — to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to Canada and to Canadians, I hope you will also take a moment to think about those who continue to live their life in service, despite the indubitable toll it takes, not only on their physical bodies, but on their mental health too.

While I have mentioned VETS Canada, there are many ways to contribute and many programs that offer support to veterans. I am pleased that the Senate is once again taking part in the national Poppy Campaign.

Thank you.

 

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