Sgt. Tommy Prince, war hero from Manitoba First Nation, put forward as potential new face on $5 bill

By | June 30, 2020

Manitoba Conservatives are calling for decorated Anishinaabe veteran Sgt. Tommy Prince to become the new face on Canada’s $5 bill.

“Sgt. Tommy Prince was a great Indigenous Canadian who embodied duty, courage, bravery, and patriotism,” the province’s Conservative caucus wrote in a letter to federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

Prince, originally from Brokenhead Ojibway Nation roughly 65 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, earned 11 medals for his heroism during in the Second World War and Korean War, including one presented to him by King George VI at Buckingham Palace.

But when he returned to Canada, racist federal policies meant he and thousands of other Indigenous veterans were denied many of the benefits given to other veterans. When he died in 1977, the decorated war hero was homeless.

“Sgt. Prince was proud to serve and sacrifice for Canada,” James Bezan, Conservative MP for Selkirk-Interlake-Eastman, said in a Monday news release.

“But as an Indigenous veteran, he was discriminated against by the federal government who failed to provide him the same post-war support as other veterans,”

The party put Prince’s name forward after the Bank of Canada announced in January it’s seeking a new design for the $5 note.

Online campaign

Right now, the bill features Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Canada’s first francophone prime minister, who governed from 1896 to 1911.

Laurier has been on one side or the other of the bill since 1969, through four separate redesigns in 1969, 1986, 2001 and 2011.

Other famous Canadians put forward as potential replacements are musician Gord Downie, hockey player Wayne Gretzky, astronaut Roberta Bondar, “Father of Medicare” Tommy Douglas and iconic runner Terry Fox.

But Manitoba Conservatives say Prince is the best choice for the redesign, citing his bravery as a member of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and as a step toward reconciliation.

“In 1907, Prime Minister Laurier forced the illegal surrender of St. Peter’s Reserve north of East Selkirk and marched the community 100 miles [160 kilometres] north to the new reserve of Peguis First Nation,” Bezan said in the news release.

Prince himself is a direct descendant of Chief Peguis, for whom Peguis First Nation is named, Bezan said. Chief Peguis signed the treaty with Lord Selkirk that granted land along the Red River to the Selkirk settlers.

The Conservative caucus has created an online campaign asking the public to call for Prince to be on the bill in emails to Morneau as well as Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem.

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