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Story Highlights Scores of students from schools in Kingston, St. Andrew and St. Catherine, participated in an Open Day and Expo, hosted by the Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB) at the Waterfront, Downtown Kingston on November 2. For his part, Assistant Commissioner of the Jamaica Fire Brigade, Sean Martin told JIS News that the Open Day, was a crucial tool for the agency, as it gives the organization an opportunity to showcase the various skills set of the men and women serving. Acting Assistant Commissioner at the JFB, Emilio Ebanks, stated that the open day and expo provided an opportunity for the brigade to sensitise the students and the wider public about fire safety. Scores of students from schools in Kingston, St. Andrew and St. Catherine, participated in an Open Day and Expo, hosted by the Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB) at the Waterfront, Downtown Kingston on November 2.The event was part of activities to mark Fire Safety Awareness Week which was observed under the theme ‘Empowering our People for a Fire-Safe Jamaica’.Acting Assistant Commissioner at the JFB, Emilio Ebanks, stated that the open day and expo provided an opportunity for the brigade to sensitise the students and the wider public about fire safety.“Children, they are our future and therefore we have to do as much as we can to change the culture of our society and make us more fire safe,” he stated.For his part, Assistant Commissioner of the Jamaica Fire Brigade, Sean Martin told JIS News that the Open Day, was a crucial tool for the agency, as it gives the organization an opportunity to showcase the various skills set of the men and women serving.“We want the public to see exactly what we do. When it comes to an accident, sometimes people think we take too long to extricate a victim, but we have things to do before we can. So simulating this on the open day, persons will have an understanding of exactly what are the steps we have to take before removing a victim,” he said.He further added that the Open Day provided an opportunity for the public to have a greater understanding and appreciation for the work of the fire department.“We want to build that kind of a culture for persons to look forward to, so that they can feel closer to the fire department and have more confidence in us,” he noted.Members of the public who attended the expo were provided with information on fire safety. They were also taught the proper way to use a fire extinguisher, basic first aid, and to conduct light search and rescue.
Francis Pegahmagabow went to a recruitment office almost immediately after war was declared in 1914.The Ojibwa sniper from Wasauksing First Nation of Parry Island would serve with the 1st Infantry Battalion and went on to become one of the most decorated soldiers in the First World War.When he returned to Canada, his reputation as a brave soldier counted for very little and he didn’t receive the same rights or benefits as his white comrades.“They’d gone from being a soldier to just an Indian again,” said Scott Sheffield, associate professor at the University of Fraser Valley and author of a report on First Nations veterans that prompted a federal government apology in 2003.Indigenous people were part of every 20th-century conflict Canada was involved in and served in the Canadian military at a higher per-capita rate than any other group.About 4,000 First Nations men served in the First World War. After the armistice of Nov. 11, 1918, they returned to Canada still unable to vote and largely shut out of the meagre benefits on offer.Although veterans were eligible to borrow money through the government for farm land, it was almost impossible for First Nations veterans to qualify.“Worse than that, around 80,000 acres of reserve land that was good for farming was actually taken away from reserves, mostly in the Prairies, and largely given to white settler veterans,” Sheffield said.That didn’t stop Indigenous people from taking up the call again when Canada joined the Second World War — about 4,300 enlisted.Thomas (Tommy) Prince, a member of the Brokenhead Ojibwa Nation in Manitoba, enlisted in 1940 and eventually was assigned to the Canadian-American First Special Service Force, known as the Devil’s Brigade. He became a legendary sniper, was awarded multiple medals and also served in the Korean War.Back in Canada, Prince ended up living in shelters and on the streets of Winnipeg until his death in 1977.After the Second World War, Indigenous veterans couldn’t get information from trained veterans affairs counsellors, and had to go through their Indian agent. It was difficult for them to connect with non-Indigenous comrades because they weren’t allowed in legion halls.They were also unable to get a loan-grant combination that helped veterans set up careers and businesses.But Indigenous men and women continued to enlist and serve in the military — from NATO duties during the Cold War to more recent tours in Afghanistan.Now an effort is underway to honour their sacrifice.Randi Gage, a Saginaw Chippewa from Michigan and a United States army veteran, organized the first Aboriginal Veterans Day in Manitoba in 1993. She wanted a day to honour them in their own communities but still allowed them to gather for Remembrance Day ceremonies.Nov. 8 was chosen because the number turned sideways is the Metis infinity symbol and it’s connected to some First Nations teachings, Gage said. She wrote letters to communities and veterans organizations to spread the word about the event.“Most of the letters came back the most racist, disgusting: ‘What the hell do you think you are doing?’, ‘What makes you so special?’” she said.But the event went ahead with a handful of veterans.The next year, National Aboriginal Veterans Day was inaugurated by Winnipeg’s city council. Gage said thousands of people attended to honour Indigenous veterans.“To see the pride in those guys, it still gets me today,” she said, starting to cry. “It started the discussion. It started people talking.”The 25th Aboriginal Veterans Day is being celebrated Thursday but Gage said there is still more work to do.The federal Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs has launched a study of benefits for Indigenous veterans.Veterans Affairs said in an emailed statement it is committed meeting the needs of Indigenous veterans and is talking to Aboriginal groups to determine the way forward.Meanwhile, the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa is holding a photographic exhibition, presented by the Embassy of Belgium, to celebrate the diversity of those who fought for the Allied effort. It includes images of Maori soldiers from New Zealand, Sikhs from the Indian Army Corps, and a photo of Indigenous recruits and elders from File Hills, Sask.A photo of Inuk sniper John Shiwak, who died on the battlefield in 1917, also hangs on the wall.Peter MacLeod, the museum’s director of research, said he hopes it changes the perspective of people who fought in the First World War.“There is a huge story there about the diversity of the Canadian corps and the war effort in general,” he said. “This exhibition … makes Canadians a bit more aware of the diversity in our country’s history and the contribution that all groups have made to Canada.”