"This is my proudest day of the year" Aboriginal war vets pay respect at National Ceremony in Ottawa - APTN NewsAPTN News

“This is my proudest day of the year” Aboriginal war vets pay respect at National Ceremony in Ottawa

Annette Francis
APTN National News

As tens of thousands of Canadians and foreign dignitaries paid tribute to Canada’s veterans and war dead at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, just a block away a few hundred people gathered at the National Aboriginal Veterans Monument.

They came to pay homage to First Nation, Metis and Inuit veterans who served and died in war.

The wreath laying event began with a prayer, smudging and an honour song by a group of women hand-drummers. Singing with them was Kimberlee Jones, a veteran from Cape Croker First Nation in eastern Ontario .

Jones has been a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force for the past 18 years. She’s served overseas in Cypress and Afghanistan and says she’s especially proud to be here to pay tribute to the Aboriginal men and women who’ve paid the ultimate sacrifice. “This, is my proudest day of the whole year,” said Jones. “It makes me feel very proud, very proud.”

Veteran John Jewitt organized the gathering. He said it was important to pay a special tribute to the Aboriginal Veterans in the nation’s capital, before heading to the national monument. “I think of some of our Metis, First Nations, and Inuit vets that served this country years ago, and came back and got nothing,” said Jewitt. “Or next to nothing and I think about the sacrifices that everybody that has served has made, for the freedoms that we have today.”

Following the laying of the wreaths, the crowd made its way up the street to the national war memorial. There they were joined by over 50,000 people for the national ceremonies, including Princess Anne, Governor-General David Johnston and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

As expected, the crowd this year was larger than in the past. Expected because of the event that took place at the memorial on Oct. 22nd when a gunman killed Nathan Cirillo, a member of the honour guard standing watch over the tomb of the unknown soldier. The gunman was killed moments later in Centre Block on Parliament Hill. The shooting at the war memorial came on theheals of the killing of another Canadian soldier. Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent was run down with another soldier a week before the attack on Ottawa. Investigators say the two deaths are not linked.

Among the crowd of onlookers was Ottawa resident Jean Landry. Landry is originally from Walpole Island First Nation. She’s attended this ceremony every year, for the past four years. “My father served in the marines, in the US,” said Landry. “But we’re Canadian and he’s been gone a long time, but I also think of all the other people in my family, my cousins, uncles, I honour them.”

After the ceremony was over, the gates opened up, and the crowd surged to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with poppies in hand, laying tributes to the fallen.

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