Acting Commander Canadian Army marks Indigenous Awareness Week

National Defence

Greetings, Aaniin, Ainngai, Tawnshi.

As Defence Team (DT) Champion for Indigenous Peoples, it is my privilege to announce the start of Indigenous Awareness Week (IAW) 2022, occurring May 24 to 27. This annual event is an opportunity for all DT members to come together and learn about the contributions, culture and heritage of Inuit, Métis, and First Nations and the important role they play in Canada’s defence.

Throughout the week we will bring attention to this important event through social media activity. The main event marking IAW will occur in Ottawa on May 27 and we hope you will join us virtually on the Canadian Army Facebook page at 1:00 pm EDT as we hear from special guests as they share insights into the challenges experienced by Indigenous Peoples but also their many accomplishments. I encourage DT members to not only celebrate and recognize the work of Indigenous Peoples but also explore resources that will expand our collective knowledge by accessing resources, like the ones provided below.

I am deeply appreciative of our Defence Aboriginal Advisory Group community for bringing us this impactful theme: “We are all in the same canoe, under the same sun.”

It is remarkable how much is contained in this single sentence. It is a message of unity – a reminder of our common humanity and that we share this planet along with an interest in its wellbeing.

We who serve with the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) are united by a shared mission to protect all Canadians and work with our allies to promote peace and stability. Even so, we recognize that the organization has not always been a welcoming place. Too many people, despite having all the skills and talents the job demands, have found themselves underappreciated at best and, at worst, harmed physically and spiritually.

Positive change is happening throughout the CAF. We are listening, learning and, most importantly, taking action to build a military that is inclusive and welcoming of diversity – a force that serves and reflects this land and all the people who call it home.

Throughout history Indigenous Peoples have proudly served in many conflicts in the defence of Canada including in both World Wars. However, their contributions were not recognized or rewarded in ways equal to their non-Indigenous counterparts. Many returned home only to face a new fight for their rights and dignity. This is a part of our history that is shameful.

This annual event, where we celebrate the culture and traditions of Indigenous Peoples is a small but meaningful step on a long and sustained path to a better future.

Today’s Indigenous Defence Team members and veterans carry on the legacy of their ancestors having dedicated their lives to the defence of Canada and public service. Although open to Canadians of all races, there is no place in the CAF where Inuit, Métis, and First Nations are more represented than the Canadian Rangers.

The past two years have been some of the busiest for the Canadian Rangers, whose work has been invaluable in helping the remote and coastal communities they serve navigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Just yesterday, the Canadian Rangers celebrated their 75th year of service, an event that has launched the Year of the Canadian Ranger, where the CAF will promote the contributions of the Rangers publically, and share with Canadians the important role they play in Canada’s military.

We sincerely value the rich diversity they and other Indigenous members bring. Their unique perspectives enrich our workplace culture and expand our understanding of the very world around us with the wisdom of generations.

Which brings me to another element of the IAW 2022 theme: We are on the same journey, slowly but surely progressing along the great waters of human progress. Our destination is reconciliation. We have made progress but that must never distract from the distance that still remains to be travelled.

With the recent discoveries on the grounds of former Indian Residential Schools poignantly highlighting the failures of the past, we must move forward together, in our shared grief, towards reconciliation and a better path for our organization and our members. We will always mourn the lives lost and those forever marked by this terrible legacy. We owe those affected a sincere commitment to take action and make real change.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action, which include relevant professional development and training for the public service, are the guide to redressing the past and furthering the process of reconciliation. The CAF is taking that step, and others, as part of our commitment to every step of this journey.

Major-General Michel-Henri St-Louis, Acting Commander Canadian Army and Defence Team Champion for Indigenous Peoples

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