Ef­forts un­der­way to hon­our In­dige­nous vets

In­dige­nous peo­ple were part of every 20th-cen­tury con­flict in which Canada was in­volved

StarMetro Calgary - - CANADA & WORLD - Kelly Geral­dine Malone TORONTO.COM

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.

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