Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Lately, I have observed the treatment of aboriginal war veterans by our Canadian government has been brought to light in various forums. For years, the federal government dealt with the issue of the mistreatment and interment of Japanese Canadians during World War II regarding compensation, public apologies, et cetera. No doubt this was an injustice to Canadian citizens. However, there was another glaring oversight and mistreatment of Canadian citizens which has been overlooked and not addressed for too long. At last, some 50 years after the Second World War, recommendations from the report, "The Aboriginal Soldier after the Wars" and the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People, have been acted upon. Thus far at least two recommendations have been acted on. Working with the National Aboriginal Veterans' Association, DIAND has provided seed money of $80,000 for organizations of fund-raising for an Aboriginal Veterans' War Memorial. DIAND has also provided contribution funding to set up the National Aboriginal Veterans' Association. In cooperation with a number of federal departments, DIAND has established a $1.15 million Aboriginal Veterans' Scholarship Fund open to aboriginal students engaged in study, which will contribute to self-government initiatives.
The Department of Veteran Affairs maintains that all legislation relating to veterans' benefits was administered properly by its department. It has recently begun to contact all veterans to inform them of the benefits for which they are eligible. According to DIAND and Veterans' Affairs, all paperwork in relation to aboriginal veterans' claims is handled by the two departments. According to DIAND's records, there were no official policies or legislation which prevented aboriginal veterans from accessing benefits, or which require aboriginal veterans to give up Indian status. However, veterans testifying before the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People consistently reported differences between aboriginal and non-aboriginal veterans' benefits. Given the choice of accepting the testimony of these individuals or the official position of the federal government, I believe there was a grave injustice to aboriginal veterans. Although the measures being taken now are better than nothing, they are too little, too late. My late maternal grandfather, Sylvanus John Vivian Cann, who died in 1986 at 100 years of age, told me numerous times of his appreciation of the skills of aboriginal servicemen with whom he served in the First World War in the trenches in Europe.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.