Veteran’s Week: Statement from President and CEO
November 11, 2022
The act of remembrance is one of the most impactful ways to honor and thank veterans for their sacrifices. Each year, Canadians gather to honor the extraordinary efforts of our veterans during Veterans Week, November 5th to 11th.
For more than 100 years, millions of Canadians have proudly served our country in uniform. Together, we show our respect and thank veterans for their service and remember how fortunate we are to live in a province like Alberta and a country like Canada. In honor of those who have served and to show our appreciation for those currently serving, flags at the World Trade Centre Edmonton will be lowered on Remembrance Day.
Indigenous Veterans Day
November 8th was National Indigenous Veterans Day, a day to honor, recognize and acknowledge the many contributions and sacrifices of all First Nations, Inuit, and Metis who have served in the Canadian Armed Forces in times of war, conflict, and peace.
Although exact statistics can be hard to find, it is estimated that more than 14,000 indigenous people served in the First and Second World Wars and the Korean War. Despite their service, many Indigenous veterans were faced with severe racism and discrimination while serving. Upon returning home, they were often not afforded the same benefits, recognition and opportunities that non-Indigenous veterans received, including the ability to vote in federal elections.
“National Indigenous Veterans Day, to me, means honoring and celebrating the life and involvement of our Indigenous men and women who served during the times of war. It is important that everyone learns and knows about the contributions made by our people in all aspects of the history of wars. Tommy Prince, Canada’s most decorated Indigenous Veteran served in World War 2 and then in the Korean War. He was awarded the Silver Star. However, his contributions were not recognized until way after his death. He died in 1977, alone and suffering from poverty and alcoholism. On a more positive note; in 2022, his image is on a Canadian postage stamp, a tribute to one of our greatest Canadian (and not just Indigenous) heroes. R.I.P. Sgt. Prince. We need to remember that many of our men and women sacrificed their lives for our country, because of them, we live in a more peaceful country” - ECC Elder In-Residence Irene Morin, Enoch Cree Nation
As we continue to take steps on this shared journey of reconciliation, we are committed to highlighting the stories of heroism and leadership, like the legacy of Alex Decoteau. Decoteau, a member of the Red Pheasant Cree Nation, was Canada’s first Indigenous police officer here in Edmonton in 1911. Known for his athletic ability, he went on to represent Canada in the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden, serving as the only representative from Alberta on the Canadian Olympic team. Influenced by his fathers involved with the North-West Rebellion in 1885 led by Louis Riel, he went on to join the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1915. Sadly, on October 30, 1917, almost five months to the day of his deployment, Alex’s career and future were cut short by a sniper’s bullet on the fields of Passchendaele. Though his life may have been all too brief, Alex Decoteau, a proud Cree warrior, made an incredible and lasting impression, leaving behind the gifts of his achievements, his many acts of service, and in the end, making the ultimate sacrifice.
Today, more than 2,700 Indigenous members continue to serve in Canada’s military forces. It’s a legacy of service that continues, and it is up to all of us to honor Alex Decoteau, and the thousands of others just as incredible as him.
On behalf of the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce and World Trade Centre Edmonton, I encourage you to take some time this week to honor Indigenous Veterans and learn more about the contributions they have selflessly provided to Canada.
- Jeffrey Sundquist