Wednesday, 07 August 2013 14:29

Monument honours memory of Lac Pelletier Métis war veterans

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Family members of the 16 Métis war veterans spend time at the new monument after its official dedication and unveiling on Aug. 3. Family members of the 16 Métis war veterans spend time at the new monument after its official dedication and unveiling on Aug. 3. Photo by Matthew Liebenberg

The official unveiling and dedication ceremony of a monument to honour 16 Métis war veterans from Lac Pelletier took place Aug. 3 at Lac Pelletier Regional Park.


Families of these veterans came from all over western Canada to attend the event and to lay wreaths during the ceremony.
Jo Kasper and her three sisters were present to honour their father Joseph (Joe) Trottier, who served in the Second World War.
“It’s finally time that they get recognized because they were never ever recognized,” she said.
Kasper, who lives in Saskatoon, was joined by her sisters Patsy Hagen from Shaunavon, Edna Cyrenne of Ponteix and Shirley Holden from Edmonton, as well as a number of nephews, cousins and grandchildren to lay wreaths in honour of Joe and John Trottier, who served in the First and Second World War.
“I love it, it’s beautiful,” Kasper said about the monument. “I had tears in my eyes when they were unveiling it, when I saw my dad’s name. It’s special, even though there’s one in Val Marie that has his name on, but this is nice because he was born in the hills here in 1907.”
Bob Chaplin came from Vancouver to attend the ceremony. The names of his mother Pearl Whiteford, uncle Clifford Whiteford and aunt Delphine Whiteford appear on the monument. All three served in the Second World War.
Chaplin said they did not talk much about the war years. All three left Lac Pelletier valley  after the war in an effort to make a living. His mother went to Vancouver, Delphine to Prince George and Clifford to Lethbridge.
“They had nine children in the family and no money and it was hard times for them,” Chaplin said. “They went to where they could make a living. They couldn’t make a living here. ... The history moves away and now the history is gone.”
The creation of the monument was initiated by the Prairie Dog Métis Local 123 Association to keep the memory alive of those Métis men and women who left their families in Lac Pelletier Valley to serve Canada in the First and Second World War and the Korean War.
Prairie Dog Métis Local 123 President Cecile Blanke was the motivating force behind the monument, which she designed.
“We need to tell people who we are and this monument will go a long ways to tell people who we are and where we come from,” she said.
Blanke knew all the veterans whose names appear on the monument. As a child she often listened to the stories told by them when they visited her father.
“I just felt we got to remember them,” she said. “Even if I didn’t know them I still would have pursued my goal. I have made my goal today and that monument couldn’t be worth more to me than if it was made of gold.”
During the unveiling ceremony, Blanke spoke about the hardships endured by these veterans and their families.
“They got no help, like land, education, et cetera, like the white soldiers got from the government,” she said. “At the war front they were all the same but that was different when they got home. They found their families even poorer than when they left.”
Among the dignitaries at the ceremony were Métis National Council President Clément Chartier, Métis Nation Saskatchewan (MNS) Vice-President Gerald Morin and MNS regional directors Lela Arnold and Lennard Morin.
“It hasn’t been an easy time for our veterans,” Chartier said during his address. “We hear these stories throughout the Métis Nation homeland and we’ve been trying at the national level to get justice for our veterans. We haven’t, I’m sad to say, moved far in terms of non-symbolic things.”
He noted the Métis Nation has been able to move the federal government to at least recognize the contributions of Métis veterans towards different Canadian war efforts.
Veteran Affairs Canada’s Community War Memorial Program contributed $22,575 towards the construction of a new monument.
“A lot of hard work went into getting the rest of it,” Blanke said. “This whole project cost around $50,000.”
Veterans Affairs Canada representative Bonnie Heidt spoke at the ceremony on behalf of Minister of Veteran Affairs Julian Fantino.
“Through this monument you’ll give them back the honour they deserved but did not receive upon their return from battle,” she said. “Canada has a proud tradition of military service and we recognize this legacy would not be possible without the Métis who served and those who lost their lives in times of war and times of peace and those who continue to serve today.”
The monument is the first one of this size in Saskatchewan that specifically honours the contribution of Métis war veterans.
“This is a big step towards the recognition of Métis and hopefully we can do more of this throughout the Métis nation homeland,” Chartier said.
Former Lac Pelletier Regional Park Board Chair John Froese was closely involved in discussions to locate the monument inside the park.
“This monument is a significant asset to this Lac Pelletier Regional Park property and will be maintained in the proper manner,” he said.

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Matthew Liebenberg

Reporter/Photographer

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