Efforts underway to honour Indigenous vets
Indigenous people were part of every 20th-century conflict in which Canada was involved
Francis Pegahmagabow went to a recruitment office almost immediately after war was declared in 1914.
The Ojibwa sniper from Wasauksing First Nation of Parry Island would serve with the 1st Infantry Battalion and went on to become one of the most decorated soldiers in the First World War.
When he returned to Canada, his reputation as a brave soldier counted for very little and he didn’t receive the same rights or benefits as his white comrades.
“They’d gone from being a soldier to just an ‘Indian’ again,” said Scott Sheffield, associate professor at the University of Fraser Valley.
He’s also the author of a report on First Nations veterans that prompted a federal government apology in 2003.
Indigenous people were part of every 20th-century conflict Canada was involved in and served in the Canadian military at a higher per-capita rate than any other group.
About 4,000 First Nations men served in the First World War.
After the armistice of Nov. 11, 1918, they returned to Canada still unable to vote and largely shut out of the meagre bene- About 4,000 First Nations men served in the First World War but returned to no fanfare or recognition for their efforts. TOM HANSON/THE CANADIAN PRESS
fits on offer.
Although veterans were eligible to borrow money through the government for farmland, it was almost impossible for First Nations veterans to qualify.
“Worse than that, around 80,000 acres of reserve land that was good for farming was actually taken away from reserves,
mostly in the Prairies, and largely given to white settler veterans,” Sheffield said.
That didn’t stop Indigenous people from taking up the call again when Canada joined the Second World War — about 4,300 enlisted.
Read more about Indigenous veterans at thestar.com/canada Bambang Sadewo
War veteran Josh Makuch experienced first-hand the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — a mental- health problem caused by exposure to traumatic events.
Having served as a rifle platoon commander fighting the Taliban counter-insurgency in Kandahar, Afghanistan, from early April to November 2009, Makuch struggled to adjust to life in the city upon his return from combat.
“Simple things set you off … like walking around in the St. Lawrence market on a Saturday,” the Beach resident said.
He dealt with his bout of PTSD “relatively well,” thanks to support from his close circle, but there are many who have to endure the trauma longer.
This is where he believes the military should do more beyond offering a few days of “de- WWW.THESTAR.COM
War veteran calls on Ottawa to do more for PTSD
compression” outside Canada prior to returning home to “blow off steam” and attend mental-health seminars.
“I have friends who committed suicide, I have friends who didn’t get that phone call from the (military) institution to check in on them,” the former infantry officer said.
The onus shouldn’t be on the veterans to seek out help or on people around them — who are not professionals — to be observing the veterans and reporting their findings to someone, he said.
Read more at thestar.com/gta Canadian Army veteran Joshua Makuch.