Promoting human rights and equality in Canadian society needs more than government apologies and reform; it requires awareness of historical wrongs.
During the Second World War, a Dakelh (Carrier) man from the Saik’uz First Nation, Dick Patrick, joined the army, trained as a gunner with the Seaforth Highlanders and fought in Europe. In one incident, Patrick volunteered for a one-man reconnaissance mission. Later, he returned with 55 German prisoners and information on enemy positions, which enabled the Canadians to keep advancing.
A report of Patrick’s exploits reached the desk of British Field Marshall Montgomery, and he was awarded a medal by King George at Buckingham Palace.
Returning home in 1946, Patrick, having survived the fight against Nazi tyranny, quietly walked into a restaurant in Vanderhoof, fully expecting to be served. Instead, he was asked to leave because he was an “Indian.” Arrested and convicted of disturbing the peace, Patrick was sent to jail in New Westminster.
Undeterred, he repeatedly returned to the same restaurant, and 11 times he was arrested and sent to Oakalla. The First Nations man was determined to show Canadians “they could not treat my people like animals.”
Patrick never was served a meal in Vanderhoof, but I think we owe him a debt a gratitude for the way he stood up for human rights, that his convictions be overturned and his story of the harmful effects of racism be taught in schools.
Bob Burgel, Surrey