Re­mem­ber­ing and rec­on­cil­ing

Sen­a­tor Brian Fran­cis says much work still needed to pro­mote rec­on­cil­i­a­tion

Journal Pioneer - - THE ISLAND - BY JIM DAY

P.E.I. Sen­a­tor Brian Fran­cis says much still needs to be done to pro­mote rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. Fran­cis, who served as Abeg­weit First Na­tion Chief for more than 11 years after get­ting the nod last month as the Is­land’s new­est sen­a­tor, was speak­ing Thurs­day at a Na­tional Abo­rig­i­nal Vet­er­ans Day ser­vice on a re­serve in Scotch­fort.

He told, as way of a cau­tion­ary tale, the story of a Mi’kmaq sol­dier named Lawrence Maloney, who was born in Nova Sco­tia but moved to Len­nox Is­land after the Sec­ond World War.

Dur­ing Maloney’s ser­vice in Poland, he was cap­tured by the Nazis and taken to a con­cen­tra­tion camp where he was sub­jected to mis­treat­ment and forced labour.

Many years after the war, Maloney, who was a res­i­den­tial school sur­vivor, de­scribed life in the con­cen­tra­tion camp as harsh but added the res­i­den­tial schools were some­times harder.

“I think this one story il­lus­trates,’’ said Fran­cis, “the two points that I would like to leave with you to­day: to pay our re­spects and say thank you to our Abo­rig­i­nal vet­er­ans for their courage and their ser­vice; to re­mem­ber how much work we have to do in this coun­try to pro­mote rec­on­cil­i­a­tion be­tween Canada and its Indige­nous Peo­ples.’’

Na­tional Abo­rig­i­nal Vet­er­ans Day is a me­mo­rial ob­served in Canada in recog­ni­tion of Abo­rig­i­nal con­tri­bu­tions to mil­i­tary ser­vice, par­tic­u­larly in the First and Sec­ond World Wars and the Korean War.

More than 7,000 First Na­tions mem­bers served in the First and Sec­ond World Wars and the Korean War, and an un­known num­ber of Inuit, Métis and other Indige­nous peo­ple par­tic­i­pated. One vet­er­ans group es­ti­mates that 12,000 Indige­nous men and women served in the three wars. Na­tional Abo­rig­i­nal Vet­er­ans Day has been grow­ing in size and scope since it was in­au­gu­rated by Win­nipeg’s city coun­cil in 1994, with com­mem­o­ra­tions pop­ping up in dif­fer­ent parts of the coun­try. Thurs­day marked the first ser­vice held by the Abeg­weit First Na­tion in P.E.I. Roddy Gould, a mem­ber of the Abeg­weit First Na­tion who grew up on the Scotch­fort re­serve, hopes the ser­vice will be an an­nual event in the com­mu­nity.

“Just to get the word out and to ed­u­cate our peo­ple that Nov. 8th is a sig­nif­i­cant day for our an­ces­tors and our grand­fa­thers and our grand­moth­ers,’’ he said.

Gould served as master of cer­e­mony in a ser­vice fea­tur­ing tra­di­tional drum­ming and danc­ing, as well as speeches from rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs Canada, the prov­ince and the mil­i­tary.

“To­day we gather to hon­our and com­mem­o­rate Abo­rig­i­nal vet­er­ans and to rec­og­nize the con­tri­bu­tions that Indige­nous peo­ple in this coun­try have made through mil­i­tary ser­vice,’’ said Fran­cis.

“In Prince Ed­ward Is­land, it is a fact that the Mi’kmaq had a greater per­cent­age of sol­diers serv­ing in both World War 1 and World War II than any other com­mu­nity on P.E.I. The Mi’kmaq were quick to self­lessly vol­un­teer … to fight and die for a coun­try that did not con­sider them to be cit­i­zens.’’

The most touch­ing – and emo­tional – por­tion of the ser­vice was saved un­til the end.

A spe­cial trail built on the re­serve as part of a ma­jor mil­i­tary ex­er­cise across P.E.I. was ded­i­cated to the fam­ily of Sap­per Erik Bron­son Bernard, a sol­dier from the Scotch­fort re­serve who was killed in a mo­tor ve­hi­cle col­li­sion in New Brunswick on Nov. 27, 2016.

Glo­ria Bernard, mother of the late sol­dier, was over­whelmed by the sur­prise ded­i­ca­tion. “I wasn’t ex­pect­ing this at all,’’ she told The Guardian. “I was just blown away…it’s in­de­scrib­able how I felt. It was just a lot of pride and love.’’

JIM DAY/SALTWIRE NET­WORK

P.E.I. Sen­a­tor Brian Fran­cis places a wreath Thurs­day at a ser­vice held on the Scotch­fort re­serve to mark Na­tional Abo­rig­i­nal Vet­er­ans Day.

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