Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 1/11/2009 (4009 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Hundreds of Métis veterans were forgotten when they got home after serving in the Second World War and they were left out of a museum exhibit when it opened six years ago at Canada's Juno Beach Centre in Normandy.
Now, elderly veterans returning to Juno Beach for Remembrance Day services will finally see their heritage acknowledged.
"It's about the nation, the people, the culture, the identity," said Manitoba Métis Federation president David Chartrand.
The exhibit highlights the history of the Métis in Canada and includes a Red River cart. The symbol of Canada's Métis will accompany the veterans and Métis youth during Remembrance Day events at Juno Beach this year.
Close to 50 people are leaving Nov. 8, with just a handful of the elderly Juno Beach veterans able to attend.
Robert Bruce, 87, is going with mixed feelings.
"They always say the Great War," said the Métis Winnipegger, who grew up in Saskatchewan. "I don't think there's anything great about any war. A lot of people were killed -- on the other side, too."
Bruce said he's physically prepared for the return to Normandy.
One of the elderly soldiers recently had to cancel for health reasons, said Chartrand, who went to Juno Beach Centre five years ago with a small group of Métis veterans.
"We were ignored," he said. "There was not one piece or message that the Métis even existed in the entire museum. There was an Inuit inukshuk out front."
Chartrand asked one museum official about the lack of a Métis presence. "He said, 'It doesn't matter; you're all aboriginal.' That's like telling all black people they're all one culture."
Veterans Affairs Canada pitched in $80,000 for travel and setting up the Métis exhibit, which volunteers from Manitoba assembled in October. Chartrand said they've nearly matched the amount received from the government by fundraising in their communities so more Métis,including young fiddlers and square dancers, can attend the unveiling of the exhibit.
The Métis veterans have been hoping for a memorial that would finally honour their wartime service and sacrifice.
After the Second World War, Canadian veterans were given financial help to buy houses and land and upgrade their education. According to a report prepared for a Métis veterans association, only eight per cent of Métis veterans reported receiving any benefits and fewer than one per cent received land under the Veterans Land Act.
In 2002, status-Indian veterans were offered $20,000 each in compensation for benefits they were denied.
"The Métis veterans got left out," Chartrand said. "There were two lines. In the Canadian line, they'd say, 'You're native -- go to the native line.' "
In the "native line" they were also rejected. "They'd say, 'You're not Indian.' "
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.
The Winnipeg Free Press invites you to share your opinion on this story in a letter to the editor. A selection of letters to the editor are published daily.
Letters must include the writer’s full name, address, and a daytime phone number. Letters are edited for length and clarity.