'Totally shocked and surprised': Windsor Métis veteran presented with $20,000 cheque

The Rochon family was shocked when 93-year-old father Wilfred was presented with a $20,000 cheque last Sunday, commemorating Wilfred's service to Canada.

Wilfred Rochon, a founding member of the Windsor-Essex-Kent Métis Council, was an enlisted soldier during the Second World War, joining the Canadian army in 1944.

Rochon trained for an invasion of Japan, but was eventually stationed in Gravenhurst, Ont., guarding prisoners of war, after the United States ended the war by dropping an atomic bomb on both Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. 

He received an honourable discharge in 1946, and later worked for Ford Canada until he retired in 1990.

Like all Canadian Second World War veterans, Rochon was promised a stipend upon returning to civilian life, as a kind of "economic head start in life to recapture the lost years," explained Manitoba Métis Federation president David Chartrand.

The federal government provided scores of veterans with compensation, but Chartrand said the government failed to keep its promise with Indigenous veterans. 

"For some reason, they did not want to give recognition to Métis and commit themselves to Métis," said Chartrand.

Supplied by Jon Rochon

It was only in 2019 — thanks to a 20-year campaign Chartrand speareheaded — that the federal government set aside $30 million as a means of commemorating forgotten Métis soldiers.

"We had some prior discussions with the prime minister before he was even prime minister," said Chartrand, referring to current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. "He was very clear that reconciliation would be a very important factor for him to try to correct the ... wrongs of the past and fix them, and then hopefully move forward from there."

Chartrand presented Wilfred Rochon with the cheque. 

"I was very honoured to give Wilfred a cheque for $20,000," said Chartrand, adding that he expects to cut 10 cheques by the end of August.

Supplied by Jon Rochon

Though there are only a handful of living Métis Second World War veterans, Chartrand said the estates of some deceased soldiers are eligible to receive compensation.

Jon Rochon says he's proud and happy for his father. 

"[It] was totally unexpected, but [I'm] very happy to see that the Canadian government is honouring the Métis veterans," said Jon. "The Métis have always honoured our veterans, and this is great to see now that Canada — our country — is honouring them as well."