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Indigenous veterans compensated for benefits denied

The Story

Tommy Prince, a member of Manitoba's Brokenhead Ojibway Nation, was one of Canada's most decorated soldiers. A hero of both the Second World War and the Korean War, Prince died in anonymous poverty, his family unable to afford a decent burial. Today Ottawa has agreed to compensate First Nations veterans for the benefits and assistance they did not receive after their military service. In this clip, native peoples like Tommy Prince Jr. tell CBC Television the package is years too late.

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: June 21, 2002
Guests: Howard Anderson, Perry Bellegarde, Sheila Copps, Rey Pagtakhan
Host: Mark Kelley
Reporter: Jo Lynn Sheane
Duration: 2:34

Did You know?

• The offer of up to $20,000 each (depending on length of service) was intended to roughly match the amount offered to veterans of Hong Kong and to merchant mariners. The government said it was not compensation, but an indication of goodwill. There was never an apology to any of the three groups.

• The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, which campaigned for compensation, had been seeking about $420,000 for each of the 1,000 veterans and 800 surviving spouses.

• The government's offer was ultimately accepted. Grand Chief Howard Anderson of the Saskatchewan First Nations Veterans Association said the offer wasn't enough, but time was running out. "Nobody really wants to take it, but they're too damn old to wait," Anderson said.

• Conditional on accepting payment was the requirement that native veterans sign a waiver exempting them from related lawsuits.

• Like many native Canadians, Prince had been rejected many times when he tried to volunteer for military service, despite being a school graduate, cadet, and excellent marksman.

• Tommy Prince was awarded 11 military medals, including the King George Military Medal (presented by King George VI at Buckingham Palace), the U.S. Silver Star and the United Nations Service Medal.

• Tommy Prince died at the Deer Lodge Hospital for Veterans in November 1977.


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