The Mi’kmaq in the Canadian Army
Approximately 7,000 Aboriginal Peoples participated in the First World War (1914-1918) and World War II (1939-1945), excluding Inuit and Métis. Aboriginal soldiers were especially appreciated as snipers and scouts to infiltrate enemy lines. National Aboriginal Veterans Day in Canada is on November 8th.
Many Mi’kmaq from Maria, Restigouche and Gaspé enlisted during the two world wars and fought in Europe. They volunteered to serve for a variety of reasons: their sense of duty, their desire for adventure or guaranteed income. Some were awarded medals for their bravery. Others lost their lives or were injured.
Joe Vicaire, a Mi’kmaq veteran
Like many Canadians and Aboriginal Peoples, Joe Vicaire was only a teenager when he joined the Canadian Army during World War II. This young Mi’kmaq from Restigouche came from a family of soldiers. His father had served during World War I as a sniper and his brothers had also gone to war. Joe was at the front as an attacker on armored tanks.
Margaret Labillois, photographer
Mi’kmaq women, such as Margaret Labillois from the village of Ugpiganjig (New Brunswick), also participated in the war as nurses or in other areas. In 1941, at 18 years old, Margaret Labillois decided to enlist in the army to help support her mother, who lived alone with five children. She became a photographer for the Canadian Air Force.
After the war, she married, had children and became involved in politics. As the first woman elected to head Ugpiganjig, she worked to revitalize the language and culture of the community and encouraged partnerships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Peoples. Recently, her contribution was recognized when she was awarded the Order of Canada and the Order of New Brunswick.