Council leader requests federal apology for elderly Indigenous veterans before they pass away
A leader of the Metis National Council has asked Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay to act quickly to ensure an apology is issued to Metis veterans from the Second World War before it’s too late.
In a letter to the minister, the council’s vice-president, David Chartrand, says an apology to veterans must happen soon because surviving veterans are nearing the end of their lives and “time is running out.”
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“Upon their return from the war, they were met with disrespect, then ignored, and never to receive the economic benefits and reintegration supports that they were promised,” he wrote on Mar. 4.
“It is unfortunate there have been delays outside of our control. Yet, I cannot impress more upon you, your staff and your government how important this is to the Metis veterans.”
The Manitoba Metis community recently lost another Second World War veteran who did not receive recognition and justice before his death, Chartrand said, adding Canada is indebted to Metis veterans for all they did.
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The federal government and the Metis Nation were closing in on an agreement with the support of former veterans affairs minister Seamus O’Regan, Chartrand said.
O’Regan was moved out of the portfolio and into Indigenous Services during a January cabinet shuffle that has recently been the subject of much political controversy.
Jody Wilson-Raybould was moved out of the justice file to take over veterans affairs but she resigned from cabinet on Feb. 12, saying her removal from the justice file was because she was not willing to intervene to provide Quebec engineering giant SNC-Lavalin a remediation agreement – a kind of plea deal for companies to avoid criminal prosecution.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has denied that was the reason for the shuffle.
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MacAulay’s office said Sunday the minister plans to speak with Chartrand and the Metis National Council in the near future on the issue.
“He remains committed to appropriately recognizing Metis veterans for their courage, achievements and sacrifices that they have made in defence of Canada,” the office said.
“We have been working closely with the Metis Nation and we will continue to work closely and expeditiously on the way forward in support of reconciliation.”
Last week, Trudeau delivered an apology in Iqaluit to Inuit for the handling of tuberculosis between the 1940s and 1960s.
Many Inuit were sent south for treatment during this period and some never returned home and were buried in southern Canada. Their families were never told of their deaths, nor their final resting places.