98-year-old Métis veteran recognized for her contributions during World War II

In the small town of Rivers in Manitoba a mural honouring the community’s veterans is displayed on a commercial building.

It reads, “Rivers: Remember when…,” and among the four burly men is a depiction of Phyllis Eastcott.

The 98-year-old Métis veteran has been recognized locally for a number of years.

Now for what may be the first time, Eastcott is receiving national attention for her service.

The Métis Nation presented a $20,000 cheque to Eastcott and her family at a celebration in the community on Feb. 28.

“We want to say thank you to Phyllis and her family. We want to honour them by also remembering them,” said David Chartrand, minister of Veterans for the Nation and president of the Manitoba Métis Federation.

The payment stems from the $30 million Métis Veterans Recognition Payment Contribution Agreement Canada signed with the Nation last year. The agreement allots $20,000 for each veteran, or their spouse or family, who served in the Second World War.

Eastcott’s family and workers at her personal care home spent days preparing her for the celebrations.

“Once she realized… this was being done for her then I think she got very excited and she was very happy to know that people were coming to do this for her,” said Eastcott’s niece Pat Anderson.

Eastcott was born in 1922 and is the middle child in her family of 13.

She was 21 when she joined the Canadian Women’s Army Corps, and was one of five siblings who served in World War II.

“When the war opportunities came up many of them joined because they saw it as a way to serve the country but more importantly as a way to help the family survive,” said Anderson.

During her service Eastcott was a stenographer, bookkeeper and a canteen operator.

She later served as a doctor’s assistant in Portage la Prairie, Man.

This is where she met her future husband Wilton “Slim” Eastcott. Following the war, the two settled in Rivers where they raised their three children.

Anderson said the celebration is also about recognizing the contributions of all Métis veterans.

“[This] means that people are beginning to realize that the Métis nation was the foundation of this country and that if it wasn’t for the people who came before us and started businesses and fought battles that Canada wouldn’t be what it is today,” she told APTN.

The Métis Nation has identified 20 veterans who served since the agreement with Canada was signed.

Eastcott is the second female.

Chartrand said discrimination from that time period prevented Métis women and men from identifying as Métis.

“Canada did not allow them to quantify that they were Métis citizens. They had to either be French-Canadian or Canadian. That’s the only options they had,” he said.

The day’s celebrations changed this.

Eastcott went from just being recognized in her own community to being a hero within in the Métis nation.

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