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Remembering and Honouring Our Heroes

by Karon Shmon

Jan 16, 2023

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By the time you read this, we will be into November, wondering how the fall has passed so quickly, while gauging how quickly winter and the Christmas holidays will be upon us. Even sooner will be Remembrance Day on November 11th and Louis Riel Day on November 16th. Both of these days are mixtures of solemnity, gratitude and celebration.

We are very fortunate that it has been a long time since a war involving Canadians has taken so many lives, injured the survivors, and left families with wounds that are still being felt today. It is the very reason that we have so few veterans who are able to attend ceremonies in their honour. And yet we still have people serving in our military, willing to risk their lives for the rest of us, and there are others who would serve if needed. We must show our gratitude to them as well.

Remembrance Day for the Métis covers a much longer span of time if we consider how valiantly our ancestors fought to resist their homes from being taken and given to others. The Red River Resistance (1869-70) in Manitoba preceded the 1885 Resistance here in Saskatchewan, at Batoche. These two Resistances took their toll, particularly the one in 1885 which resulted in the Métis being forced to disperse and to remain a forgotten people until we were officially acknowledged in the Canadian Constitution in 1982, thanks to Harry Daniels. There are different kinds of veterans and different kinds of service.

Remembrance Day and Louis Riel Day share the goal of honouring those who made sacrifices but they evolve from divergent reasons. Remembrance Day commemorates the day the First World War ended with armistice agreement by all parties that resulted in peace. Louis Riel Day is not commemorated for such a positive reason. Most people are surprised to learn it is the day Riel was executed in 1885 after being tried and convicted of treason in a biased trial. It wasn’t even in the jurisdiction of the all, non-Indigenous jurors to pass such a sentence. In fact, they wanted Riel to take the loop hole of an insanity plea to spare himself from execution. Riel stood on principle, to ensure the tragic events were not solely attributed to a crazy person and subsequently forgotten about.

I feel that if he had taken the plea, what happened to the Métis might just become a small textbox in a history book and be deemed insignificant. I also believe the Métis may not have had the tenacity to continue to advocate for our rights or to covertly keep our culture alive without Riel’s sacrifice. He showed us, as the other veterans have, that it takes courage to face an enemy and that this can come at a great cost. I believe it is the sacrifices made by our veterans that must compel us to remember and show our gratitude. Without that, we may very well have missed out on what’s good in our lives and what is not good might even have been worse.

A few moments of remembrance and gratitude on these days and often in-between is certainly the way to honour all who served.

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