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Well, I went into the recruiting office and, and he started asking me questions. First he said, “Nationality?” I said, “Indian.” “No such nationality.” I said, “Well, what is there?” He said, “Well, you can either be Irish, French or English.” So I thought a while. I said, “I heard them Irishmen are pretty tough guys.” “Yeah, I heard that too.” “Okay, I'll be an Irishman.” “Okay, I wrote down you're an Irishman.” Next come religion. “What's, what's your religion?” I said, “The Great Spirit.” “Not a religion.” “Okay, what choice do I got there?” “You can either be Protestant or Catholic, RC” He said, “Did you ever hear any of your people talk about such things?” “Oh, my grandma used to talk about Catholic.” “Okay, you're an RC” “Okay, that's fine.” Then it was, “Your hometown?” I told him “Neskonlith Reserve.” I was born in a place called Quaurk [sic]. That means Bay. I was born there. “No, that's, that's not a place.” “Well,” I said, “What do you mean then by place?” He said, “The closest place where there's people and there's a store and stuff like that.” “Oh,” I said, “well that, that'd be Pritchard.” I said, “We got a hotel there. We got a store and a post office.” “Okay, that's good enough. Okay, you were born in Pritchard, that's okay.” Oh well, that was my start.

Mr. Toney discusses his recruitment and the army’s failure to accept his Aboriginal heritage, forcing him to enlist as an Irish Catholic.

John Martin Toney

John Martin Toney was born on September 26, 1923 on the Neskonlith Reserve, British Columbia. The strongest influence in his life was his grandfather, who taught him spirituality, life and survival skills. Mr. Toney feels that at that time he was being groomed to become a Chief. By the age of eight, he was hunting game to help feed his family. He later worked at a ranch and then as a carpenter. Proud to enlist, the army’s restrictive criteria forced Mr. Toney to renounce his Aboriginal heritage and designate himself an Irish Catholic. He was accepted by the Seaforth Highlanders, Engineering Corps, based on his success at demolition. His first action saw him in the second wave at Dieppe where he witnessed much death and suffering. Agile in the field, he hand-picked and led many reconnaissance and demolition patrols against the Germans. Mr. Toney was wounded twice, and after his second recovery, finished the war as motorcycle dispatch rider. He then signed up for Pacific duty, returning home early

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
John Martin Toney
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Seaforth Highlanders
Dispatch Rider

Copyright / Permission to Reproduce

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