Indigenous Veterans Day and Remembrance Day

By: The Hon. Jane Cordy

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War memorial, Ottawa

Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute to all those who have served in our Armed Forces, many of whom deployed around the world, never to return home; countless more returned home carrying with them the traumas of war.

I often think of my father, Private Lauchie MacKinnon, from Grand Mira, Cape Breton, and his experience of serving during World War II, when he was deployed, and fought, in Holland and Italy at the age of 19.

When we were children, my father never spoke to us about the horrors of war. Instead, he spoke to us about the other things he saw or did, like Canadian troops going to the Vatican for mass given by the Pope or being on leave in Edinburgh and going into a pub where he randomly met his cousin, who was also from Grand Mira.

My brother, Commander Charlie MacKinnon, also served in the Canadian Armed Forces. I have told the story before, but I remember when, as a member of the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association, or CANA, I travelled to Kabul, Afghanistan, while my brother was stationed there.

During Veterans’ Week and Remembrance Day, my father and brother are never far from my thoughts. I know that all of us here today have family or close friends who have served or continue to serve.

This year, Canada marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of United Nations peacekeeping efforts. Over those 75 years, Canadian military personnel, as well as members of our Royal Canadian Mounted Police forces, have been deployed to countries in turmoil all over the globe on multinational peace operations, defending democracy and standing up for security around the world.

As conflict around the world is on the rise and hitting closer to home every day, on this Remembrance Day, we honour the 125,000 military members who served or continue to serve on peace missions — as well as those Canadians who were killed while deployed. Many more returned home with physical and psychological trauma.

Yesterday, we marked Indigenous Veterans Day to honour the estimated 12,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit soldiers who served alongside our allies, and we remember the nearly 500 who lost their lives defending our freedoms. As Senator Francis so poignantly expressed yesterday, these soldiers not only returned home with physical and psychological injuries, but also faced social injustices and continued policies of cultural discrimination. We must continue to do better in recognizing the contributions of First Nations, Métis and Inuit to Canada’s Armed Forces.

Honourable senators, it is important for all Canadians to take a moment this week to reflect on the contributions of our Armed Forces and remember all those who answered the call, defending our democracy and protecting the vulnerable around the world.

Thank you.

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