senators’ statements — National Indigenous Peoples Day

June 22, 2021


Honourable senators, I rise today to commemorate National Indigenous Peoples Day. Each year on the summer solstice we celebrate the rich and diverse culture and knowledge of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples — a tradition that has been carried out by Indigenous communities since time immemorial.

At this time of celebration, we are collectively struck with the devastating discovery of 215 children’s graves found near Kamloops Indian Residential School. We must understand it is only the beginning of the unveiling of truths of our collective history revealed in the courageous voices and Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission — truths that must come first and must guide us to take accountability and concrete steps to action.

At this time, I would like to take a moment to share with you a community project in my home region of Orillia, in the Gojijing, Lake Couchiching bioregion, in the traditional territory of the Anishinabek, in Williams Treaties territory and Georgian Bay Métis region. Inspired by my experience on the Aboriginal Peoples Committee and with the advice of our former colleague Senator Murray Sinclair, I realized the importance as a parliamentarian of my role and to take responsibility and dedicate efforts toward energizing truth and reconciliation here at home.

Over the past two years, with the guidance and lead from local Indigenous elders Lorraine McRae, Jeff Monague and John Rice, and with community members, I have been hosting regular meetings with a growing circle of Indigenous and non‑Indigenous community leaders from across our region. What started as a series of round-table dialogues for truth and reconciliation led to a desire from the group to move into collective action and has inspired many collaborations, innovation and community vision.

An event planned for June 2020 was inevitably postponed by the pandemic and our meetings transitioned to an online format, which continued and have evolved. At the beginning of this year, a pathway plan and two priorities were identified for action: engaging the voices of Indigenous youth to lead us with their perspective, and to the development of education for families, schools, media, organizations and businesses across our region.

As a result of the planning sessions in collaboration with knowledge keepers and local educators, this group launched a website, dialogue series and online walk for truth and reconciliation through portals known as “choice boards.”

There has been remarkable feedback since the site went live on June 1. I want to take a moment to thank our elders, our vibrant youth and the many community members of the round table whose commitment has been unwavering.

Honourable senators, the journey of the Gojijing Truth and Reconciliation Roundtable has been a great privilege, with people deeply committed to the principles and Calls to Action within the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Please join me in congratulating them on what is certainly a great beginning. Meegwetch. Thank you.