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  • Writer's pictureRyan Deneault

Remembrance Day 2023: A Reflection on Freedom and Equality

I would like to take a moment to honour and remember all the men and women who have served and continue to serve Canada during times of war, conflict and peace. Remembrance Day marks the anniversary of the official end of World War I on November 11, 1918. The first Remembrance Day was observed on November 11, 1931.

Indigenous peoples played a significant role in the Canadian military forces during the First World War and Second World War, with thousands of Indigenous peoples serving as volunteers 1. Despite their contributions and sacrifices, Indigenous peoples remained marginalized, without basic civic rights like the right to vote 1.

After the First World War, there was little recognition given to Indigenous peoples for their contribution to the war effort. However, during the Second World War, Canadians acknowledged Indigenous participation 1. As the country looked to create a new order in the aftermath of the war, many Canadians suddenly looked at their country’s treatment of Indigenous peoples and did not like what they saw. In this brief climate of recognition, Indigenous leaders, veterans groups and many other Canadians pressured the government for reform and citizenship rights, leading to a Parliamentary review in 1946 and major amendments to the Indian Act in 1951 1.

However, Indigenous soldiers weren’t afforded the same rights and benefits after their service — such as access to housing and financial and health supports — as non-Indigenous veterans 2.

Aboriginal soldiers returning from both wars continued to face racism and discrimination. They were denied citizenship and were not even counted as human in the census until 1971 3. Aboriginal people faced demeaning controls on their behaviour under the Protection Acts, with their wages and movement controlled by Protection Boards 3.

While I take a moment of silence today, I will equally recognize ALL the men and women who have and continue to protect Canada, and I will wish for a future where every Canadian citizen is provided with the same freedoms these soldiers fought so valiantly to protect.

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