Former soldiers from same Mi’kmaw community join the war effort in Ukraine

Shots ring out on a farm 20 km west of Natoaganeg First Nation in New Brunswick as Samuel Sutherland, wearing combat clothing, approaches a pile of tires stuffed with hay.

He fires off single shots at his targets.

This is where Sutherland, 36, a father of three, Sixties Scoop survivor and former soldier is preparing for war.

“Definitely scared you know, it’s war, it’s not a joke,” he says.

Sutherland, a Canadian forces veteran with 4 years in the Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group, doesn’t want to reveal his rank, unit, or where he was based, for safety reasons.

Sutherland with his wife Hailey, ‘I have complete faith in him.’ Photo: Angel Moore/APTN.

But now he’s answering the call to go to Ukraine to help fight the Russian invasion.

He says his foster family’s farm offers space to revive his military skills. Loading and firing his rifle, close and long-distance target practice, and physical endurance training.

He says didn’t experience combat while a member of the Canadian forces. He’s scheduled to leave for Ukraine in a few weeks.

“It is the right thing to do, and I strongly believe in it and I’m going to put my life on the line for it,” he says.

Sutherland’s wife, Hailey Cail-Sutherland, 24, is supportive.

“I never really told him not to go because I know like he can handle his own,” she says. “He was trained specifically for this type of situation, so I have complete faith in him.”

Hunter Francis, left, with Sutherland in an undated photo. Francis sustained non life-threatening injuries fighting in Ukraine. Photo courtesy: Samuel Sutherland.

Sutherland’s friend Hunter Francis, 24, is also a community member of the Natoaganeg First Nation.

He was fighting in Ukraine for six days before sustaining non-life-threatening injuries.

Francis has returned home but was unavailable for comment.

Sutherland and Francis heard the call on the news and social media to go and defend Ukraine.

Days after Russia attacked, Ukraine foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba, tweeted:

“I invite you to contact diplomatic missions of Ukraine in your respected countries,” Kuleba says.

“Together we defeated Hitler, and we will defeat Putin too.”

Kuleba announced last week more than 20,000 volunteers from 52 countries have arrived in Ukraine.

Sutherland practicing on his foster family’s farm outside Natoaganeg First Nation. Photo: Angel Moore/APTN.

Global Affairs Canada, which handles issues of interest to the country outside its borders, won’t say how many people are heading to Ukraine.

“The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller and we cannot guarantee the safety and security of Canadians abroad,” says spokesperson Sabrina Williams. “Canadians in Ukraine should not depend on the Government of Canada to leave the country.”

The Ukrainian embassy in Ottawa didn’t reply to questions about people heading to fight.

Sutherland says he felt compelled to act.

“Seeing the atrocities on the news and other social media platforms what Russians are doing to the civilians and innocent children, I don’t believe in that, I stand-ups for what I believe in I put my money where my mouth is and I went out and got myself a uniform and put my uniform back on again and I’m going to help them with their freedom.”

As the conflict escalated, Sutherland began raising money and accepting donations such as medical supplies.

“Ninety per cent of it has been out of my own pocket, Eel Ground First Nation may a kind of donation yesterday, to help me out, actually that basically bought my plane ticket to go over to Ukraine so that was amazing.”

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Natoaganeg First Nation has a long tradition of its members going to war.

Chief George Ginnish says some community members have served in both world wars and the Korean War.

“Our warriors have stood up and been there when the need was there and these two gentlemen,” he says. “I know Sam has a little more military experience, but they wanted to help, they wanted to make a difference you know, so we absolutely would support them and just tell them to be careful, be safe.”

Sutherland is prepared to help in any way he can, whether it be in combat or humanitarian efforts.