Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, I would like to begin by acknowledging that I am joining from you from Mi’gma’ki, the ancestral territory of the Mi’kmaq people.
Today, I add my voice to those who have already spoken about the tragic discovery last week of the remains of 215 children, some as young as three years old, who were buried in unmarked graves on the grounds of the now-closed Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia.
For many of us, it seems unthinkable that such atrocities could have taken place, particularly toward some of our most vulnerable — our children. But for many First Nations, Métis and Inuit, this news has reopened a wound that has still not had the opportunity to heal. The trauma and suffering of these communities are more than just a dark chapter in our history. It is a lived and ongoing reality for Indigenous people.
Honourable senators, we must work harder to ensure that we address these harms through concrete and lasting actions. It is especially important for those of us who are non-Indigenous to play an active role in reconciliation. We must make space to listen to the voices of the First Nation, Métis and Inuit populations. But, honourable senators, listening is not enough.
We must acknowledge that the pain we felt when hearing the news of the 215 deaths of these innocent children who were taken and never returned home requires a response that goes beyond words. The work done by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has provided us with the guidance for our next steps. These actions will advance truth, healing and reconciliation more than any words possibly could.
Honourable senators, we must recognize and honour the lives of these 215 children and share in the collective grief surrounding the circumstances of their deaths. But we must also share the responsibility and commit to the work required for real reconciliation. I support the Indigenous leaders who have urged us to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action, including searching every Indian residential school site to ensure that there are no more lost Indigenous people.
On behalf of the Progressive Senate Group, I offer our sincere condolences to the families and to the communities of the 215 children found in British Columbia, as well as to all Indigenous peoples whose lives have been impacted by residential schools. We see you, we hear you and you have our support.
Honourable senators, we can and we must do better. Thank you.