National Aboriginal Day
Ottawa - June 21, 2011
Today marks National Aboriginal Day, when we celebrate the history and contributions of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples. There is arguably no greater contribution than service to your country, so it is fitting that today we honour Canadian Aboriginal Veterans who gave their lives for their country in the First and Second World Wars and the Korean War, and the thousands of First Nations, Inuit and Métis who served and continue to serve in uniform for Canada.
This morning I was proud and honoured to lay a wreath at the 10th Annual Ceremony of Remembrance at the National Aboriginal Veterans Monument in Ottawa. For those of you who have never been to Ottawa, the Aboriginal Veterans Monument is a remarkable sculpture that incorporates images of four spiritual guides seen as being important to military success - the wolf, the bear, the buffalo and the caribou.
It was a touching ceremony with a blend of the Remembrance ritual complemented by First Nations’ traditions. The Eagle Staff was marched in and joined all Veterans within the circle reinforcing the fact that within the Veterans’ circle there is but one Veteran - the one that offers all including his or her life so that we may enjoy the peaceful country that Canada is today.
Aboriginal men and women have served and continue to serve Canada’s military in impressive numbers. It is estimated that 7,000 Aboriginal men and women served in the great conflicts of the 20th century with more than 500 making the supreme sacrifice.
On behalf of all Veterans, I would like to extend sincere gratitude to all Aboriginal Veterans and serving members, and to the families affected by their service. Guided by the spirits of the wolf, the bear, the bison and the caribou, you answered the call and make us proud to stand by your side.
A salute to our Aboriginal comrades-in-arms!
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