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Tim O'Loan Continues to Stand Up for International Indigenous Rights

I am from the Sahtu region of the Dene Nation in the Northwest Territories. As a very young Indigenous man at 17 years old, I admired the military and those who served. I had been aware of some of the Indigenous veterans that served, and it made me see the Canada Armed Forces as a family that I wanted to be part of, so I joined their ranks.

Coming out of service, I currently have a physical and a mental injury. I am very grateful for the support from Veterans Affairs Canada and other amazing institutions such as Soldier On. I simply don’t know where I would currently be without them. I don’t often give credit to organizations for this, but this is an exception: they save lives.

Once I received my diagnosis for PTSD, my caseworker referred me to OSISS. It turned out that I served with the gentleman that was running it, and we had the chance to share our past stories with each other. He recommended Soldier On and that could apply to participate in the Invictus Games. I am so grateful that I was accepted to participate in Sydney in 2018 as it completely changed my life.

After leaving the military, I got a degree and started my career in the field of Indigenous rights. I began as a negotiator on land claims and self-government. I moved to Ottawa to earn a master’s degree which eventually led me to working on international Indigenous issues with the United Nations with a focus on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Through this opportunity, I became more aware of the common challenges Indigenous peoples have around the world.

Canada is a great place that is often regarded as a leader on the "rights agenda". This is one reason why our military members serving abroad are so respected. However, respectfully, we still have Indigenous communities here in Canada that are struggling, particularly with the impact of this country’s uncomfortable truth. The legacy of church and government run residential schools continues (along with so many other policies). It continues to impact the communities today (this is part of my "spiritual wound"). This country needs to understand its history; some call it our uncomfortable truth. We have more work to do. Mahsi Cho