Military offers options for aboriginal youth

CFB Esquimalt recognizes aboriginal personnel at National Aboriginal Day celebration

Esquimalt First Nation drummer Auggie Thomas performs in honour of National Aboriginal Day at CFB Esquimalt last Thursday

When Leading Seaman Erwin Alexander was 18 years old and a recent high school graduate, his grandmother asked him what he planned to do with the rest of his life.

There weren’t a lot of options available to the aboriginal teenager at his Greenville home within the Nisga’a Nation in northern B.C.

“For myself, I would have just sat around or played baseball,” said Alexander, one of about 40 aboriginal people at CFB Esquimalt.

Fast forward 11 years later, and Alexander, who serves as a steward onboard HMCS Vancouver at CFB Esquimalt, has travelled the world. He has also attended events to speak with First Nations youth about career opportunities in the Canadian Forces.

“I have nothing bad to say to aboriginal youth about experiences I would never have done back home,” said Alexander, among several past and present aboriginal CFB Esquimalt personnel recognized during the 14th annual National Aboriginal Day festivities at the base last Thursday.

Earlier in the day, a canoe, carved for the navy’s centennial last year, was blessed in its new home at the officer’s wardroom at the base. The event drew B.C.’s first aboriginal lieutenant-governor, Steven Point, who helped carve the canoe and chose its new home.

The canoe signifies “that we need to start travelling together,” Point told Esquimalt and Songhees Nations elders, and several military leaders, including Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Walter Natynczyk.

First Nations youth can achieve new beginnings through education and the military, Point said, noting that suicide rates among First Nations people are six times the national average.

The military actively recruits aboriginals through several employment programs. About two per cent of Canadian Forces personnel are aboriginal, but the goal is to raise that to three-and-a-half per cent by 2014, in keeping with the Employment Equity Act.

The military provides First Nations people with options.

“What has happened to Aboriginal people is that they’ve been outside of the mainstream for so long on reservations, and a way out of those communities is a way out of poverty sometimes,” said Point.

emccracken@vicnews.com

Just Posted

Victoria woman sets date to swim the Strait of Juan de Fuca

Susan Simmons will attempt to be the first to swim the Strait twice starting Saturday afternoon

Victoria Police arrest man in relation to indecent act at Beacon Hill Park

The man is known to police, and is facing three charges

Federal government announces over $115 million to Royal Canadian Navy

Defence Minister Harjit S. Sajjan was at CFB Esquimalt to announce missile system upgrades

New 84-unit seniors housing in Saanich constructed to Built Green standards

Mount Doug Manor an example of Built Green on a big scale

Materials linked to 1992 Colwood murder found at construction site in Metchosin

West Shore RCMP investigating to determine if relevant to the old case

PHOTOS: B.C. city wakes up to darkness under wildfire smoke

The rest of the province also dealing with thick haze as smoky skies continue

Five things to do in Greater Victoria this weekend

Puppy yoga, horses, cars, water guns and more make up this weekend’s list of events to see

Hospitals to see ‘delays’ in care after losing Saudi students, health group says

About 1,000 Saudi residents called back to kingdom after suspending diplomatic relations with Canada

Bernier diatribe against ‘extreme multiculturalism’ boosts Liberal coffers

Party spokesperson Braeden Caley says online donations doubled, social media engagement quadrupled

‘Disjointed’ system hinders British Columbia First Nations in wildfire fight

More than 550 wildfires were burning in B.C. and crews were bracing for wind and dry lightning

Castlegar bridge designed by architect of collapsed Italian bridge

Riccardo Morandi designed the Kinnaird Bridge, which is part of Highway 3.

RCMP nab prolific car thief after month-long, B.C.-wide search

A province-wide warrant was issued for Brian Robert Stephan in June for a litany of offences

First long-awaited Cyclone lands near Victoria airport

Military helicopter first of nine to come to Saanich Peninsula base

Court sides with developer in Jumbo ‘substantially started’ dispute

Resort developer successfully argues 2014 decision that halted the project was unfair

Most Read