A Metis sailor was recognized with a special medal on Tuesday (Nov. 8) by CFB Esquimalt’s commanding officer as part of National Indigenous Veterans Day.
Petty Officer 1st Class Steve Morrison was awarded the Aboriginal Veterans Millennium Medal by navy Capt. J. Jeffrey Hutchinson. Morrison said receiving the medal was an honour, but receiving it is about far more than just himself.
“This is huge because this isn’t just me, this is for my aunts and uncles who were residential school survivors who stepped forward to serve in WWII. They were Metis and they had to hide who they were,” said Morrison. “This is for all of us – all of our ancestors who have gone before, and those who are serving now.”
Morrison said receiving the medal on National Indigenous Veterans Day made it all the more meaningful, as the day has become symbolic of the changes and reconciliation which have been occurring since it was first marked as a protest after Indigenous veterans were denied the opportunity to lay a wreath for their fallen comrades on Remembrance Day.
“This started off as a protest in Winnipeg, and it has grown to this, where it is recognized nationally and is slowly gaining recognition internationally across Turtle Island. This day is not organized by the military or the government, it is organized by us. I was down this morning by the cenotaph – there were two of us. We have not done this in Victoria before. Next year, hopefully, it will be a dozen of us, the next year, two or three dozen.”
Morrison currently serves as the elected national military co-chair of the Defence Aboriginal Advisory Group, an entity which serves as the voice of Indigenous members of the Department of National Defence at command levels up to the Minister of National Defence.
Lt.-Col. Catherine Askew, formation chaplain at CFB Esquimalt, said the medal is awarded to CAF members who have exemplified what it means to be both a member, and an Indigenous person living that life with integrity, and is also awarded in memory of Indigenous members who have served in the past.
“Petty Officer 1st Class Morrison exemplifies someone who believes in a better Canada, who lives a life of reconciliation, who believes we are all related – Indigenous, settler, new Canadians, visitors to our land – we are all related, and that is what this medal means today – that he is walking those diverse paths with integrity and with hope.”