Indigenous young adults begin leadership opportunity year

A group of men and women wearing both military and civilian clothing. The six people wearing civilian clothes are holding certificates.
(From left) Master Corporal Danielle McCutcheon of the Canadian Forces Recruiting Centre in Winnipeg, Officer Cadets Henri Fortin, David Outchikat, Taylor Lavallee, Jasmine Wood, Alyssa Le Fort-Lynx, William Pronteau, and Corporal Patrick Laurin of the 17 Wing Defence Aboriginal Advisory Group, pose for a picture following the Aboriginal Leadership Opportunity Year enrolment ceremony in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on August 3, 2018. PHOTO: Bill McLeod, Voxair

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By Bill McLeod

“I’d like to begin the ceremony by acknowledging the hard work and effort that each of our enrollees have made and to thank the families for their tremendous support you gave to help them reach this point,” said Master Warrant Officer Victor Lopes, a military career counsellor with the Canadian Forces Recruiting Centre (CFRC) for the Prairies and the North Detachment Winnipeg.

On August 3, 2018, six indigenous young adults swore an oath or made an attestation at Citizenship Hall in Winnipeg’s Union Station that enrolled them into the Canadian Armed Forces for one year as officer cadets at the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC) in Kingston, Ontario, under the Aboriginal Leadership Opportunity Year (ALOY) program

During the year at RMC the students will receive free tuition and books. They may request to leave the program at any time. At the end of the year they can continue in a degree program through either the Regular Officer Training Program or the Reserve Entry Training Plan.

The ALOY program will see the cadets participating in sports, field trips, leadership development, military training, cultural support activities, and individual learning plans.

William Pronteau of Cormorant, Manitoba, Jasmine Wood of Wasagamack, Manitoba, David Outchikat and Henri Fortin of Thompson, Manitoba, and Taylor Lavallee and Alyssa Le Fort-Lynx of Winnipeg, Manitoba, were intent and serious as they were enrolled by Colonel Geoffrey Abthorpe, the commander of 38 Canadian Brigade Group, headquartered in Winnipeg.

Corporal Patrick Laurin, a member of the 17 Wing Defence Aboriginal Advisory Group (DAAG), was present to show his support to the enrollees. “I’m here to represent the DAAGs and let [the new recruits] know they’re not alone,” he said. “There are DAAGs all over Canada that can provide them support.”

“The rich and varied history of the indigenous people is imbued with the proud heritage of warriors,” said Colonel Abthorpe said as he addressed the enrollees and their families. “Thousands of indigenous people sacrificed and volunteered to serve our country in the military, overseas and at home.

“We have a young history as a Canadian military but you have a long legacy of service to our land,” he continued.

“This gathering today, and the very proud six youths that we’re going to swear in, clearly highlight the rich cultural diversity, history, and contribution that the indigenous people bring to the Canadian Armed Forces.”.

Keith Fortin, father of new enrollee Henri Fortin, said was proud of his son as well as his community and province. “Six of the 30 accepted for this program came from Manitoba,” he said.

Mr. Fortin also noted that Henri’s father and grandfather had served their country in the military.

According to Master Corporal Danielle McCutcheon, senior detachment clerk at CFRC Detachment Winnipeg, and an indigenous member, enrolled another ALOY member from Arviat, Nunavut, but costs prohibited that individual’s attendance at the ceremony in Winnipeg.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to develop an academic foundation,” said Ms. Fort-Lynx. “I really think the key to breaking the barriers that I personally face is education. I think the education that I’ll receive at RMC will create the foundation to have a further university career and hopefully be a leader in the Forces.”

“I hope to gain new experiences, get to meet all kinds of new people, and make new friends,” said Ms. Lavallee.

Bill McLeod is the manager of Voxair, 17 Wing Winnipeg’s newspaper, where this article was originally published.


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Image gallery

  • A group of men and women wearing both military and civilian clothing. The six people wearing civilian clothes are holding certificates.
  • A man wearing a military uniform shakes hands with a man wearing a civilian suit as they hold a certificate between them.
  • A smiling woman wearing civilian clothing holds a certificate. Items on a table next to her include a statue of an eagle and an eagle feather.
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