A new private member’s bill aims to recognize Ontario cadets while also honouring Indigenous veterans.
Peterborough-Kawartha MPP Dave Smith has tabled a bill that would establish an award for Ontario cadet corps and squadrons to recognize their volunteerism and community service.
If passed, Smith says the Murray Whetung Community Service Award Act would provide an annual award to a cadet from the Royal Canadian Air Cadets, the Royal Canadian Army Cadets and the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets who demonstrates exceptional citizenship and volunteerism within their community and their local cadet corps.
The award would be named after Murray Whetung, 98, a Curve Lake First Nation Second World War veteran, the last in the community north of Peterborough. Smith says the bill would not only honour Whetung’s service and contributions to his community, but also that of all Indigenous veterans who voluntarily gave years of their lives in service for Canada.
“Murray Whetung has dedicated his life to giving back to community,” said Smith. “Many people aren’t aware that he worked with the DND (Department of National Defence) for years to help support First Nations veterans. He quietly gave his time without looking for praise or notoriety, serving community because it was the right thing to do.”
Smith says Whetung was one of the more than 7,000 Indigenous men and women who volunteered during the First World War and Second World War. Smith notes many of the serving Indigenous members were stripped of their status because they were off their First Nation for more than four years while fighting for their country overseas.
“Despite this injustice, many continued to recognize the value in continuously giving back to their community,” said Smith.
Smith says with the award, the virtues exemplified by Whetung’s lifelong contributions will be “espoused and promoted through the cadet programs.”