When Canada’s Métis veterans arrived home from the Second World War, they faced another battle as many couldn’t access the same supports as other vets. But on Tuesday, the federal government issued a formal apology for its shortfalls.
“We apologize that the benefits offered to the veterans after the World War were not designed to meet the needs of the Métis veterans,” Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay said.
“We regret that our country has take three-quarters of a century to address the concerns of Métis veterans who joined Canada’s call to arms to enter the Second World War.”
MacAulay says many Métis veterans “experienced prejudice, poverty and a relative lack of pre-war education, vocational skills and work experiences.” Veterans also had trouble accessing health care, dental benefits and mental health resources after the war, which, in turn, caused strain on their families and other relationships.
The apology comes with a $30-million commitment to recognize Métis veterans. All living Métis vets will receive a $20,000 cheque. Families of veterans who have died within the last three years will also receive compensation.
“Many will not hear the apology but what is the good fortune is their children will hear, their loved ones will hear, their community will hear,” said Manitoba Métis Federation president David Chartrand.
“At the end of the day, the Métis veterans’ families will have the benefit of knowing this country did right and the economic head start they didn’t receive then, the children may receive it now.”
Norman Goodon is one of Canada’s last living Métis veterans. He received his cheque immediately following the apology at the Regina Royal Canadian Legion.
Goodon, 93, still lives on his own. He says he plans to use the money to buy a motorized scooter to help him get around.
“He never had an army pension or anything else, he worked hard all his life, raised seven kids, so yeah, this is just like a little break for him,” said Goodon’s son, John.
“This is like winning the lottery for him.”
The remaining money, which will be about $20 million, will go into a legacy fund to “support commemorative initiatives.” Consultations will take place in the coming months to decide exactly how the money will be spent.
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