PAGC commemorates bravery of First Nations veterans

Dignitaries open the Prince Albert Grand Council's Remembrance Day service. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

Jayda Noyes, Daily Herald

Solemnity filled the Allen Bird Memorial Centre on Friday as dignitaries shared stories for the Prince Albert Grand Council’s (PAGC) Remembrance Day service.

Representatives from the Prince Albert police and RCMP, chiefs of the PAGC, Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) Chief Bobby Cameron, Prince Albert Northcote MLA Nicole Rancourt and Mayor Greg Dionne were there to honour those who fought for freedom.

First Nations veterans did not have to go to war under the Indian Act; however, many of them did because they saw their land was in danger and were prepared to fight for it.

Cameron spoke about how their bravery impacted First Nations rights.

“Thank you to the veterans for what you’ve done for every one of us because not only did you help form the federation, you had a big part…just the other day,” he explained.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court of Canada acquitted an Indigenous man facing an unlawful hunting charge.

He killed a moose near Swift Current back in 2015 the day before moose hunting season opened, on private land without the owner’s permission and without a license.

The accused argued the land wasn’t being used and he was exercising his Treaty rights.

“Because of the veterans, it ruled in our favour right across Canada,” said Cameron.

Principal trumpet of the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra, Terry Heckman, plays The Last Post with PAGC Grand Chief Brian Hardlotte behind him. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

Rancourt told a story about her brother, who served for 31 years.

While at his home, she said she saw two funeral cards stuck to his fridge.

“I said ‘Who are these guys?’ and he said ‘They’re people that I served with,’ so I said ‘Well, what happened to them?’ and he said ‘They committed suicide,’ and he said it like this was just common place, and I think all of us here know it is common place and that’s what’s so sad and disturbing,” said Rancourt.

Over 200 guests listened to her speak about the importance of having mental health programs for both veterans and their families.

“We have a lot of individuals who served for our country and they come back not the same person they (were when they) left, and I think it’s an obligation and a responsibility that we ensure that we have programs in our province,” she said.

Dionne touched on the same topic.

“They still suffer the tragedies of war. Some things you just cannot forget and they still have those memories today that harm them—losing their friends while standing beside them,” he said.

He added he wants to see a change in next year’s service.

“When we get up, come to this service, let’s wake up our children and bring our young people so that they can hear our stories and understand the hardships,” he said, noticing few kids were in attendance.

Veronica Morin was among the dignitaries. She lost her husband in 2009 while he was serving in Afghanistan.

Virginia Pechawis, the oldest First Nations female veteran in Saskatchewan was also at the service.

She laid a wreath for those who served in the First World War, but she served in the second.

Veronica Morin (left), who lost her husband to war, kisses her son’s cheek. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)
Virginia Pechawis (right), assisted by her daughter, lays a wreath in honour of the First World War veterans. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)