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November 8 is Indigenous Veterans Day


On November 8, Canada recognizes Indigenous Veterans Day to honour Indigenous peoples’ contributions to Canada’s military service. Joseph Lariviere is an Indigenous Veteran who served in the Korean War and is currently a resident at Sunnybrook’s Veterans Centre. His family has shared some of his story below, in recognition of his service and sacrifice.

In photos: Joseph Lariviere - life at Sunnybrook's Veterans Centre 

Joseph Lariviere's story

Joseph enlisted in the Canadian Armed Forces in the city of Toronto, Ontario and was sworn in on January 5, 1952, three months before his 20th birthday. He felt it was an honour to serve in order to protect the freedoms of all Canadians and for those overseas who were in jeopardy of losing their freedoms. He served in the Korean War theatre.

Joseph was given orders for basic training, and a week after taking his oath, he reported to Petawawa, Ontario where he was assigned to the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment (3Bn RCR). Basic training was completed on August 8, 1952 and he was assigned the rank of Private, 2nd Class.

On August 21, 1952, Joseph left for Japan, where he arrived on September 3, 1952, and was placed on a stand-by list. He then departed Japan on September 29, 1952 and landed in Korea the next day where he remained on a stand-by list. He returned to Canada on November 1, 1952, to London, Ontario, as part of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment.

Joseph was on the battlefield in Korea in late March of 1953 and had rejoined the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment. On March 25, 1953 he suffered an injury and was taken to a field dressing station by field ambulance. Once discharged from the dressing station, he was evacuated to an area behind the regimental aid posts.

It was on March 28, 1953 that Joseph was awarded two medals for his service: the Korea Medal and the United Nations Service Medal.

On May 5, 1953, Joseph received a field promotion from Private, 2nd Class to Private, 1st Class and on June 28, 1953, Joseph was classified as a qualified driver/operator. Joseph first learned how to drive while serving in Korea. Prior to his enlistment, he would simply ride his bicycle everywhere in Toronto.

As of August 31, 1953, Joseph was authorized to return home and was transported to Japan, arriving on September 1, 1953. He spent about two and a half weeks in Japan, departed on September 19, 1953 and was able to return to Canada on September 28, 1953. He was able to then take a month’s leave.

Joseph was again assigned to the 1st Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment in Petawawa at the beginning of December 1953. Joseph was then transferred to the Canadian Joint Air Training Centre (CJATC Rivers Manitoba) where he successfully completed the parachutist jump course on February 24, 1954 and achieved qualification as a parachutist.

On June 17, 1954, during a training practice with some of his fellow service members, Joseph suffered an injury to his right knee that would have a significant impact in his later life. He was admitted to the Royal Canadian Army (RCA) Medical Corps hospital and was discharged on June 30. It took about a month for the knee to heal and have full function again. After healing he was also trained as an Infantry Signaller.

During Joseph’s term of service, he was always thrilled to receive letters from home and would write letters to say hello and share his experiences with his mother and other family members. Altogether, Joseph actively served for a period of three years and was “Honourably Released” on January 6, 1955.

Joseph applied with the Canadian Army Reserves on October 16, 1961 and was accepted based on his former active service with the Canadian Army. He was classified as a gunner with the 42nd Medium Artillery Regiment, RCA. Joseph was honourably released on April 10, 1962.

Joseph is Ojibwe and a member of Nipissing First Nation, near North Bay, Ontario. As a youth, Joseph learned some of the skills of his peoples, such as fishing and hunting, and being able to traverse the untouched wilderness that was his playground. He especially loved fishing with his brother and the whole family would enjoy a savory dinner with the fish they caught.

After being discharged from active service, Joseph married in 1956 and went on to have five children, five grandchildren, and he also has a great grandchild on the way (as of Sept. 2021). His working life included a number of different occupations, including a saw operator at a wood manufacturing plant for the production of wooden boxes and pallets, a taxi driver, a salesman, and a courier.

His family is amazed at the training he received while in the Canadian Armed Forces which served to enrich his life.

Read more about Indigenous Veterans’ contributions to Canada’s military service and their experiences below: