In her remarks during a Service of Remembrance at St. Anne’s Church on Remembrance Day, Lennox Island First Nation Chief Darlene Bernard paid tribute to all of Canada’s war veterans.
“These are men and women who fought to ensure many things that we take for granted – freedom, liberty and democracy,” said Bernard. “Never forget those who have given selflessly of themselves to protect people who they never met."
Bernard went on to acknowledge the contributions of Indigenous Peoples in Canada and pointed out a greater percentage of the Mi’Kmaq in Prince Edward Island served in the First and Second world wars than from any other community on P.E.I.
“The Mi’kmaq were quick to selflessly volunteer to fight and die for a country that did not consider them citizens at that time,” she said, adding they were treated differently after the war than non-Indigenous veterans.
Bernard shared the story of a Mi’kmaq man from Nova Scotia, who moved to Lennox Island following his service in World War Two.
Pte. Lawrence Maloney, she said, was captured by the Nazis while serving in Poland and taken to a concentration camp.
As a child, Bernard recalls “listening to his stories of torture and of being always hungry and cold. And it seemed so very far away”.
“Many years after the war, Lawrence, who was a residential schools survivor, was asked about life in (a) concentration camp, and he stated that, as harsh as it was, the residential schools in Canada were sometimes harsher,” said Bernard.
Bernard said she shared Maloney’s story to illustrate two points.
“First, to always pay our respects and our remembrance and say thank you to all veterans, including our Aboriginal veterans, for their bravery and their service. And two, to remember how much work we have to do in this country to promote reconciliation between Canada and its Indigenous People. Our veterans fought and died to protect rights and equalities and fairness. We owe it to them to ensure reconciliation is achieved.”
Bernard said she recalls Maloney as always being kind, but having endured the demons of war.
“He used to say, ‘it’s not good; those concentration camps are not good.’”
He died in Lennox Island about 30 years ago.
“At the end of the day, though, he said he’d fight for his country again, if he had to,” Bernard said.Members of the Ellerslie Branch 22 of the Royal Canadian Legion served as colour party for the Service of Remembrance. A wreath in memory of Maloney was laid during the service.
Rev. Gordon Bush, chaplain for Branch 22, shared a reflection on heroes.
“Many heroes have come and many heroes have gone, and heroes are still here today, putting on that battle dress to go where they’re called to go,” he said.
The chaplain said people do not gather for Remembrance services to glorify war, but “to honour those who sacrificed so much in the name of liberty, justice, of freedom and of peace”.
“I pray and I hope you pray, too, that the torch of justice and freedom be passed to each other, to new generations, and must never, ever be extinguished, and that light will shine brightly in the darkness and people will know; people will know that you are Christians by your love.”
He concluded his remarks by singing "Bring Him Home".
“They left their families because they saw what was happening in the world and they didn’t want what was happening over there to come here," Bernard said. "They did what they had to do to protect us, and we must never forget the sacrifices they made.”