November 10, 2016.
(Ottawa, ON)â€• On the day leading up to Remembrance Day, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde is reinvigorating the AFN’s longstanding commitment to action and advocacy for First Nations veterans. Today, National Chief Bellegarde convened a gathering in Ottawa of First Nations veterans from across the country to set priorities and establish a new AFN Working Group on First Nations Veterans Affairs. The National Chief and First Nations veterans will participate in tomorrow’s Remembrance Day ceremonies in Ottawa.
“The AFN is deeply committed to keeping First Nations veterans at the forefront of all our work. Today we revitalize these efforts for our brave women and men who served proudly and with distinction,” said National Chief Bellegarde. “This Remembrance Day, I vow to stand with them as we push for fairness, recognition and respect for every First Nations veteran, young or old, and for their families.”
Today’s meeting focused on the priorities of First Nations veterans and included representatives from Veterans Affairs Canada. Discussion ranged from securing benefits and inclusion of ceremonial means of calling home the spirits of fallen comrades lost overseas. Veterans requested the National Chief seek formal support from the Royal Canadian Legion Dominion Command for a gathering of First Nations veterans as a step towards re-establishing the First Nations Veterans Association, and to press for resources from Veteran Affairs Canada to support these efforts.
The Assembly of First Nations will lay two wreaths at Canada’s National War Memorial during Friday’s Remembrance Day ceremony. One wreath will be laid by AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde. A second wreath will be laid on behalf of all First Nations veterans in Canada by Alan Knockwood, a Mi’kmaq from Nova Scotia and a veteran from the Vietnam era.
“It was a sincere pleasure joining National Chief Bellegarde and fellow vets from across Turtle Island today at the AFN,” said Mr. Knockwood. “I’m greatly looking forward both to laying the wreath tomorrow and to getting our new Working Group off the ground. It’s high time this level of sprit and energy were brought toward First Nations veterans issues.”
AFN Chiefs-in-Assembly have passed dozens of resolutions over the years pertaining to the rights of First Nations veterans. For more than two decades, the Assembly of First Nations has had a presence at every national Remembrance Day ceremony in Canada. It was not until 1995 that Indigenous peoples were allowed to lay wreaths at the National War Memorial.
The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.
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