Canadians across the nation are giving thanks to Indigenous veterans Tuesday.
The country is marking Indigenous Veterans Day on Nov. 8 — a day to recognize the service of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people.
The government notes that Indigenous Peoples have served Canada in operations both domestically and abroad for more than 200 years.
Currently, more than 2,700 Indigenous members serve in Canada’s military forces.
“Today, on Indigenous Veterans Day, we express our heartfelt gratitude to all First Nations, Inuit, and Métis service members who have served in the Canadian Armed Forces. On this day, we also remember those who never made it home and those whose lives – and the lives of their families – were forever changed by conflict and war,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement.
“Key battles in the War of 1812 were won thanks to the contributions of brave First Nations and Métis people. In the last century, thousands of volunteers from Indigenous communities across the country enlisted to serve in the First and Second World Wars, in the Korean War, and in peacekeeping missions under the United Nations.”
Highlighting many of the key roles Indigenous veterans have played over the years, Trudeau admits that despite their service, many have “endured hatred and systemic racism while serving.”
“When they returned to Canada, they did not receive the same benefits, honours, and respect as non-Indigenous Veterans. The Government of Canada is working to ensure that all Indigenous service members and Veterans receive the recognition and the support they deserve – we owe it to them,” he added.
Ceremonies and services are being held across the country Tuesday to mark the occasion.
The federal government says Aboriginal Veterans Day was established in Manitoba in 1994.
In 2001, the National Aboriginal Veterans Monument was unveiled in Ottawa, just a short distance from where the National War Memorial is. It was erected to “commemorate the contributions of Aboriginal peoples in war and peacekeeping.”
According to the government, about 3.5 per cent of the the Canadian Armed Forces is of First Nation descent today.