Thank you for having me here today. It took a while for me to be recognized as a veteran as I sit in this room with you. I've come across that since I got out of the military after 10 years' service. I was a peacekeeper. I still face that today. I was introduced as a Métis veteran, and I was told, “Oh, they're nothing.”
In this day and age, that needs to stop. I'm a proud mother. My son is 26 years old, and he happened to be born on United Nations peacekeeping day. My husband was a peacekeeper at the same time when we were on our tours. I was at the Israeli-Syrian border, the Golan Heights, while the Gulf War happened, so that took on a whole different meaning. I have stories I could tell, but I'm going to keep this short.
I'm a mother. My 10-year military career was fantastic. I chose to be a mother and I chose to get out at that time, not knowing what was going to hit me after the fact. One day you're at work, you've got your boots on, you're at the mess, you're having a beer, you're one of the guys, you're sharing stories, and it's fun. The next day, I'm home with a young baby, in my slippers, no family, nobody to talk to. I didn't know what to do with myself, because I was used to going to work. I didn't know how to be a mom to my first child, and there was no support for me to reach out to. I wasn't military. I was now civilian and I didn't know what to do with myself.
On the Métis side of it, as a Métis veteran, I only found out that I was Métis about 20 years ago. I'm the youngest of nine, and we lived in northern Ontario, but it was hidden from us. We did things that were Métis. Now I realize it. I could snare a rabbit and carry a pellet gun after school to go check my snares. I went moose-calling with my brothers. I still harvest today. I go up to the North Bay area—I'm not giving away the area—and I do harvest, and we are successful every year. I camp and I enjoy our traditional life, but I never grew up with our traditional life, so now that my son is 26, I try to teach him our traditional ways, and I also try to teach them to my nieces and my nephews.
Throughout our own community, not being full first nation myself, I do not go to a sweat lodge. I do not seek out elders to help me in any of my process. I don't have PTSD that I'm aware of, but I try to reach out to our Métis veterans, whether by a phone call or by organizing events in my local area to get the veterans out. I've been on Remembrance Day parades wearing my sash, my beret, and my medals, and it's like, “Are you a veteran? Are you a Métis veteran? Oh, why are you wearing your scarf around your waist?”
I think all we're looking for is to be recognized. Some of the symbols are so easy to recognize, like a blue beret amongst everybody on Remembrance Day. Everybody's proud of their berets.
We have veterans who just won't wear their medals because they can't. Because of their PTSD, from wherever they served, they don't want to be recognized as veterans. When we go into the communities or go into civilian facilities, as I'll call them, and try to explain that to people, they just don't get it.