Mamadosewin (meeting place, walking together)

Tribute to the Honourable Serge Joyal, P.C.

Tribute to the Honourable Serge Joyal, P.C.

Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: 

I rise today to pay tribute to our friend and colleague, the Honourable Senator Joyal. Senator Joyal, through your work and advocacy, the Senate will lose one of its most dedicated allies for Indigenous peoples and Indigenous rights upon your retirement in February. I want to specifically mention and pay tribute to your Senate work on Indigenous issues. To keep this tribute brief I will mention just three that have stood out for me.

First, in 2014, before the federal government even initiated the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, Senator Joyal, you prepared the legal document that would convince the government that they had to do this. You prepared this and it was given to the Native Women’s Association of Canada and released to the public via a news release. Our entire caucus unanimously supported this manœuvre.

I was deeply touched by your dedication and work to lend you own hand and your brilliant mind to fight for justice for Indigenous women and girls and their families. It has always meant a great deal to me that you honoured the murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls and their families who led the fight to establish the national inquiry.

Second, I want to pay tribute to your tireless dedication on a bill that you introduced in the Senate three times over your Senate career. Its most recent iteration was your Senate public bill, Bill S-212, Aboriginal Languages of Canada Bill. As we all know, the core of this bill was incorporated into government Bill C-91, Indigenous languages Act that passed in our last Parliament.

In your second reading of your Bill S-212 you stated: “We owe the diversity of the country to the Aboriginal peoples and to the effort they have spent through the centuries trying to maintain the flame of their identity in such an adversarial school system.”

These words deeply spoke to me, as I, like many Indigenous people, have had to overcome a colonial-induced shame of my own Cree heritage and reclaim my self-pride and ignite the flame of my own Indigenous identity. I thank you for advocating on our collective behalf.

Third, I was reminded by Senator Day’s speech about your generosity in all the artwork you have donated to the Senate. In particular to the Aboriginal People’s Committee room in our old Senate location. It was such a beautiful, warm and welcoming room because of all the beautiful paintings you had donated that were done by Indigenous artists. It was an absolutely fantastic room.

I remember a sacred ceremony we conducted with the grandfather masks that were part of the Haudenosaunee culture — sacred items that were on the wall — and one of our audience members, Rarihokwats, who is there virtually all the time, thought those sacred masks need to be looked after. So with you and the national art commission we did a sacred ceremony to look after them. That will forever stay in my heart — with you and Senator Sinclair and former Senator Moore and people from the national arts commission — we conducted that ceremony that looked after the people and the witnesses who came before the Aboriginal People’s Committee.

I want to thank you — Kinanaskomitin. It’s a Cree word that means thank you. I honour you. It has been a great pleasure to know you and to learn from your wisdom.