Senator Klyne: Minister, thank you for being here with us today. By establishing a national day for truth and reconciliation, Bill C-5 answers the TRC’s Call to Action 80. In explaining that measure’s importance, the commission wrote:
Survivors shared memories with Canada and the world so that the truth could no longer be denied. . . . They want Canadians to know, to remember, to care and to change.
The establishment of a national day can help inform Canada’s collective national history going forward, giving all Canadians a better chance to learn the truth as a basis for reconciliation. This is particularly important for those Canadians taught falsehoods and racism in their formative years, and Bill C-5 offers opportunity for all in that regard.
Looking ahead, it could well be that children are the key to reconciliation and change — how fitting.
The hearts and minds of youth are open to learning the true history of the tragedy brought on by previous generations, in addition to the richness of Indigenous nations’ histories and cultures, going back thousands of years before colonization.
Strengthened with this truth, Indigenous youth can learn and practise their ceremonies and languages, instilling in them a sense of identity, pride, family heritage, a sense of triumph over injustice and a sense of place in today’s world.
Non-Indigenous youth can also discover the richness of their neighbours’ history and cultures and draw universal inspiration from what I believe will be a successful struggle to uphold Indigenous rights in Canada.
All of this can bring Canada’s young people together to create a better society in the future.
Could you please comment on the importance of education and curriculum, and the importance of public commemorations in terms of instilling understanding and pride in the Canadian federation as it truly exists and as a nation of many nations?
Mr. Guilbeault: Senator, this is such an important question. I think education is the only way we move forward on the path to reconciliation. We cannot legislate against racism; if we could, perhaps that would be easier, but we just can’t. It has to be education, and I agree with you; our children are the path to the future toward reconciliation if they can learn Canada’s true history without trying to sweep anything under the rug, no matter how hard and painful part of our history is. I think that it will make them better and more informed citizens who will be better equipped than many of us were, or even are, to help us move forward on the path toward reconciliation.
Senator Klyne: Minister, the history brought into focus by the discovery in Kamloops is a heartbreaking tragedy in many ways. And in those many ways, the national day for truth and reconciliation will be a commemoration of this tragedy.
But it will also be an opportunity to celebrate the heroes who led Canada out of a dark chapter. I’m talking about the survivors. Their courage and resilience have brought the truth to light, despite all the hardship and suffering inflicted upon them. The survivors achieved their legal victory through the TRC with the settlement agreement, and their testimony gave Canada the truth. As the TRC report states, “Their victory deserves celebration.”
Minister, can you please share your perspective on how the national day can help us celebrate the bravery of survivors coming forward and their legacy as heroes in Canada’s history?
Mr. Guilbeault: I have referred in my remarks a couple of times to Phyllis Webstad, who is a survivor who worked to launch this grassroots movement of the Orange Shirt Day. When you speak about those heroes, she is clearly an example.
There are many of those out there, and the day for truth and reconciliation can be used as a tool so that we know who these heroes are, and for us to celebrate and recognize all of their leadership and work over the years and, in many cases, over many decades.
Senator Klyne: Thank you.