By Troy Bannerman - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on November 29, 2023.
Shelley Townsend is proud of her Metis heritage.
She is descended from Marguerite Taylor, the second wife of George Simpson, who was the Chief of all Inland Posts for the Hudson’s Bay Company.
Townsend’s father, Owen Simpson, was a veteran of the Second World War. Like many Indigenous Veterans, Metis included, most served without recognition.
The Metis Veterans Legacy Program is working to change that and on Thursday at the General Stewart Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, Simpson was honoured as a Metis veteran.
“He was a World War Two veteran. When he went to the war his two brothers also went with him. Not at the same time. My dad and his brother George, these two shipped out first, and then about a year later his brother David came. I don’t know what his parents would have gone through having three sons in the war,” said Townsend recently.
“He served from 1941, I think he was enlisted until 1945. He was discharged in 1946. He went over to England, and he worked with the RCEME, the Royal Canadian Mechanical Engineers. They helped to take all the supplies, they were the engineers. He was not an engineer but this was an engineer core that helped to supply all of the equipment and keep it all running for the army.”
Simpson died in 1973.
In remembering her father, she said, “I think it’s really solidifying. In a way, it’s a posthumous recognition of him as a Metis man. And I think he would be very proud to know that because he was all about family. He was a very family-centered man. I have a brother and a sister and he just loved being a dad. So he spent a lot of time playing with us. And going on family trips, and family holidays, and family drives every week. He would be telling us all about our family, and all about his history and all the stories about George Simpson. He knew our history. And he taught it to all of us.”
In speaking about the Metis Veteran’s Legacy Program, Townsend noted, “it seems to be specifically for World War Two veterans. And if he was still alive, he would be well into his hundreds. It’s amazing that my mom is still alive. And she’s very elderly. So to be recognizing World War Two vets, to their surviving spouse, it’s a pretty limited number of people, let alone Metis veterans.”
Officials from Winnipeg staged a ceremony of recognition for Simpson at the Legion where his widow received the award on his behalf.
“It’s just a real important time for our family,” noted Townsend