Speaker Bio:
Daniel Lafontaine

Speaks:

English & French

Speaking Topics:

Peacekeeping

I was born in 1964, and I grew up in Chelmsford, which is outside of Sudbury, in Northern Ontario. My father’s mother is Algonquin (Anishnabeg), born in the Baskatong region of Québec. My mother’s grandmother is Innu (Montagnais) from the area of Les Escoumins, Québec. I am a francophone and a first-generation Métis in Québec. I am proud to be a Canadian veteran and even prouder still to be an Aboriginal veteran. Today, I live in Wendake, Québec. Enlisting: I went to college for Law and Security, because I wanted to be a police officer. I was only 18 when I graduated. I was looking for work, but I could not become a police officer until I was 21. My grandmother Brigitte suggested I join the Canadian Forces instead. I took her advice and I signed my contract with the Canadian Army, swearing allegiance to the Queen and to Canada on December 10, 1983, three days before my 19th birthday. My career with the military: I started out as a field artilleryman at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Valcartier in Québec City. I was quickly promoted to the ranks of Corporal, Master Corporal, and then Sergeant. Over the years my positions included artilleryman, assistant gunner, combat intelligence, and supply technician, among others. During my career, I was deployed on peacekeeping missions with the United Nations, and on missions with NATO. In 1987/1988, I was stationed in Cyprus. In 1996, I served in Haiti for two months, replacing a wounded comrade. I deployed more than once to Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia during the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s (also called the “Wars in the Balkans”). I left the Forces in 2003. Over my 20-year career, I received a Chief of Defence Staff Commendation, a Command Commendation, my Canadian Forces Decoration (CD), my Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal, and several medals for the missions I served in. Looking back, I faced many challenges in my career. My first challenge was to leave my family, because I had never travelled any further than Northern Ontario, and to adapt to the strict regimen of the Canadian Forces. The biggest challenge in my retirement was adapting to civilian life and dealing with my mental illness, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which only showed itself in 2007. I witnessed and experienced some difficult things during my tours as a peacekeeper, and this led to my PTSD. It affected my life so negatively that I finally got medical care in 2009. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental illness that some people suffer after they have experienced an extremely difficult, dangerous, or frightening event where their lives or other peoples’ lives were in danger. The situation is so unexpected and so frightening that, even long after they are out of harm’s way, the event continues to have a serious negative effect on them, through flashbacks, nightmares, and other symptoms. Remembrance in my community: For me, remembrance is a matter of paying tribute to all my fellow servicemen and servicewomen who have served with me, for me, and for Canada. I am very proud of bringing together more than 1000 veterans for a sunset ceremony to honour Canadian Peacekeepers on National Peacekeeper’s Day (August 9th).

The Memory Project includes a community of over 1,500 veterans and Canadian Forces members who are committed to sharing their stories of service.

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