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Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw man turning resentment over Normandy into forgiveness

Click to play video 'Indigenous man reflects on grandfather’s D-Day sacrifice' Indigenous man reflects on grandfather’s D-Day sacrifice
Droves of Canadians are flying overseas this week for the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Troy Paul, an Indigenous man in Nova Scotia, hopes the journey to Normandy will allow him to reflect on his grandfather's sacrifice, and convert anger into forgiveness. Ross Lord explains.

For all of his life, Troy Paul’s thoughts of Normandy have been filled with anger over his grandfather’s death.

“I had a hard time getting over that, and still, to this day, it still bothers me,” he said, speaking to Global News from his home in Membertou, Cape Breton.

His grandfather, Pte. Charles Doucette, was a member of the Mi’kmaq First Nation. He also lived in Membertou.

“My grandfather would have been like any other Canadian at that time, and said, ‘I want to fight for these rights for freedom, for liberty, for justice,'” Paul said.

READ MORE: Remembering D-Day: How the Allies broke through Hitler’s ‘Fortress Europe’

Paul notes his grandfather stepped forward at a time when he and other Indigenous Canadians were denied basic liberties in their own communities, including the right to vote.

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Even freedom of movement was limited by government-appointed Indian agents.

At age 31, Doucette left a wife and young child back in Nova Scotia, when, one day after the D-Day landings, he and 19 other Canadian soldiers were taken as prisoners of war — at the Ardenne Abbey, near Caen, France.

German soldiers took the Canadians aside one at a time and either shot or bludgeoned them to death. Some of their bodies were not discovered for almost a year.

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Click to play video 'Exploring the relics of D-Day along Juno Beach' Exploring the relics of D-Day along Juno Beach
Exploring the relics of D-Day along Juno Beach

At the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, military historian Marc Milner says the Nazi commander who ordered the massacre was tried by Canadian prosecutors, immediately after the war.

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“Kurt Meyer…was the commanding officer of that regiment and was at that headquarters when it happened,” Milner said.

“[He] was actually at one point by a Canadian court sentenced to death, and that was commuted by the British. And he spent time in New Brunswick here at Dorchester Penitentiary after the war for his war crimes.”

READ MORE: ‘We were called savages’: Mi’kmaq elders reflect on past decades of discrimination in N.S. (Oct. 1, 2018)

All these years later, Troy Paul is proud of his community and his role as Membertou’s Human Resources Director, and welcomes growing recognition of injustices faced by the Mi’kmaq and other Indigenous Canadians. Paul’s hatred of what the Germans did is giving way, he says, to forgiveness.

“That’s the most important thing for me is that — that I forgive them for my own peace of mind, and for my own heart, because I’ll beat myself up if I don’t,” he said.

During this week’s anniversary events in Normandy, Paul plans to attend an event hosted by the German government — an important part of his personal reconciliation.

“I just hope my grandfather would appreciate what I’m doing, I guess,” he said through tears, reflecting on his grandfather’s extraordinary sacrifice.

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