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Sudbury Métis veteran honoured for service in Second World War

Melvin Ronald Rivers was recognized as part of a program that saw the federal government issue a formal apology to Métis veterans in 2019, as they were neglected when returning to civilian life following the Second World War

A Mètis veteran from Sudbury was posthumously honoured on May 26 for his contributions to Canada in the Second World War. 

Melvin Ronald Rivers was recognized as part of a program that saw the federal government issue a formal apology to Métis veterans in 2019, as they were neglected when returning to civilian life following the Second World War*. From this apology, a Métis Veterans Legacy Program was launched that sees Métis veterans, or their surviving spouses, receive an apology from the government of Canada and a recognition payment of $20,000. Rivers was recognized in a ceremony at The Walford in Sudbury, where Rivers’ wife, Grace Rivers, accepted the award on behalf of her late husband.

A resident of Massey and a member of the Métis Nation of Ontario, Rivers was born Feb. 9, 1920, on a family farm. As one of 12 children, he left school at a young age to help support his family during the Great Depression. He worked as a farm hand in the Massey area, then travelling as far as Alberta for farm work.

On Oct. 4, 1941, Rivers followed in his father’s footsteps and enlisted in the Second World War. His dad had served overseas in the First World War and had been recently called back to serve as a guard at the prisoner-of-war camp in Espanola, inside the KVP Company

Rivers enlisted into the Royal Regiment of Canada based in Winnipeg. Upon completing basic training, he was sent to England to await deployment which happened in June, 1944. After his arrival in France he advanced with his regiment to Belgium, where he was wounded in a mortar attack — remnants of which physically impacted Rivers for the rest of his life. After a brief recovery, Rivers returned to active duty until his release in October, 1945. 

Rivers was then promoted to master corporal and recommended to be promoted to sergeant by the end of the war. Once he returned home, he began working at KVP in Espanola. He met Grace, who would soon become his wife. 

They married in 1947, and moved to Sudbury so Rivers could start a job with Inco Limited, where he remained for the next 35 years as he and his wife raised five children. 

“Melvin was a proud man,” reads a release from the Métis Nation of Ontario. “He took pride in the fact he served his country, pride in his family, pride in his Métis identity and heritage and pride in everything he did within his community.” 

Métis Nation of Ontario President Margaret Froh and Veterans Council President, Brian Prairie were on hand to present the apology and recognition payment. 

For more information on the Métis Nation Ontario Veterans Council, visit their website, found here

*Clarification: Métis veterans were excluded from post-war benefits after the war, and additionally excluded when the federal government compensated 'status' Indigenous veterans in 2003. This payment is to remedy that omission.  

 


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