Aboriginal Veterans Day

By Richard Lawrence

On June 21, 2017, the organization Aboriginal Veterans Autochtones (AVA) celebrated and remembered the veterans of indigenous heritage by holding the annual Remembrance Ceremony at the Aboriginal War Veterans monument in Ottawa.

It was a perfect day with temperatures in the high teens, a coolish breeze, and blue sky smattered with clouds. In attendance was the Commander of the Canadian Army, LGen. Paul Wynnyk, Deputy Minister of Veterans Affairs Walt Natynczyk, and Veterans Affairs Ombudsman Guy Parent. Each laid a wreath in remembrance of the countless Canadian Armed Forces members of Aboriginal descent who served. Many other veterans groups attended, including the Canadian Association of Veterans in United Nations Peacekeeping and the Korean Veterans Association (KVA) who assisted in the organization and parts of the ceremony. Attendance at the event was quite good for such a niche ceremony held in the middle of the week with probably around 200 present.

The ceremony itself followed the standard pattern of remembrance with the Commitment to Remember, the Last Post, the Silence, the Rouse, and the laying of the wreaths; the ceremony lasted about 40 minutes. However, Aboriginal ceremonies have some special touches found nowhere else, such as a smudging ceremony to cleanse the area and the bringing of the Eagle Staff ahead of the flags of the Colour Party. There was also a drumming group in attendance who played prior to and during the ceremony.

At the end, LGen. Wynnyk was asked to come forward and he was presented with a ribbon shirt, which he accepted on behalf of the Army and the Canadian Armed Forces. He was then asked to present the Aboriginal Veteran Millennium Medal to Capt. Stanley in recognition of her service, completion of her degree, and her commitment to keeping and promoting native culture and lifestyle.

The ceremony completed, the assemblage retired to the Lord Elgin Hotel for a reception.

Celebrating ANZAC Day in Ottawa

By Richard Lawrence

Australians and New Zealanders have been commemorating the landings at Gallipoli during the Great War since 1916. “It has become the national day of commemoration to remember those Australians and New Zealanders who died during WWI, WWII, and all subsequent wars and peacekeeping operations in which both countries have been involved,” stated Wing Commander Mike Salvador, the newly arrived New Zealand defence advisor who was the master of ceremonies at this year’s 102nd ANZAC Day, held at the Canadian War Museum on April 25, 2017.

Although all chairs were filled, it was a smaller ceremony than in the past couple of years, when it was standing room only. Also absent this year was anyone of significance from the Canadian government which, in the past, had been represented by such dignitaries as the Governor-General of Canada and/or the prime minister. And although Chief of Defence Staff General Jonathan Vance was also absent, he was ably and appropriately represented by LGen Paul Wynnyk, Commander of the Canadian Army.

The ceremony started with the posting of sentries around three stacked rifles, followed by a hymn and a prayer, and then an address by His Excellency Daniel Mellsop, High Commissioner of New Zealand to Canada. During his speech, Mellsop reiterated that, although this day commemorates the Gallipoli landings, it also recognizes the huge losses the two countries suffered on the Western Front during WWI and all the losses of military personnel since. Following an address by Wynnyk, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s Memoriam was read by His Excellency Selçuk Ünal, Ambassador to Turkey. Laurence Binyon’s ode “For the Fallen” was read my His Excellency Tony Negus, High Commissioner of Australia. From this point, the ceremony resembled most other remembrance ceremonies with the playing of the Last Post and the Rouse, and the laying of wreaths.

What is special about this ceremony is that all combatants participate in its remembrance, understanding that both sides had losses, and that, although enemies during the First World War, Turkey cares for the fallen Australia and New Zealand soldiers who are interred there with reverence and care. This is truly unique, as you don’t see this in other remembrance ceremonies, where former enemies unite to remember all those lost to battle.

Afterwards, all were invited to join the High Commissioners of New Zealand and Australia for morning tea in the Canadian War Museum lobby. (Fruit, juices, piggies in a blanket, huge croissants, cookies, and other munchies I think constitutes more than “tea”.)