Hon. Marty Klyne: Honourable senators, I am speaking to you from Regina, Saskatchewan within Treaty 4 territory, the homeland of the Métis Nation.
The confirmation of hundreds of victims at Cowessess brings another reckoning for our country. After Kamloops, Canadians must again face the truth and decide how to respond. We know this may only be the beginning, and based on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report, we should not be surprised.
I came across an article in the Friday, June 25, 2021, edition of the Regina Leader-Post entitled “Sask. First Nations brace for residential school discoveries after Cowessess findings.”
The opening paragraph reads:
After the heart-rending discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves at the former site of the Marieval Indian Residential School, other First Nations investigating nearby residential schools are bracing for their own encounters with long-buried tragedy.
Colleagues, there are no fewer than 15 schools in Saskatchewan that fall under the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. The opening and closing dates span over a period from 1860 to 1998.
At Cowessess, the Catholic Church operated the Marieval Indian Residential School, also known as Grayson, starting in 1898. The federal government began funding the school in 1901 as a state assimilation program. Indigenous children at Marieval faced coerced separation from their parents in an attempt to eliminate a culture, ceremony and language. In this attempt, many children will have died from neglect, overwork, and disease and dangerous conditions.
At Cowessess, the grave markers are thought to have possibly been bulldozed by a priest in the 1960s. Today, they are working to identify the people in the graves and protect the site as a place of healing and memorial. A vigil took place this past Saturday.
When reflecting and praying for the lost children, we must be mindful to acknowledge and honour the survivors. We also need to use the truth to change and grow as a federation of nations. As legislators, we need to keep the children in our hearts.
As Chief Cadmus Delorme said on Thursday:
Canada, one day, hopefully when my 4-year-old is old, will have reconciliation through and through, through the spirit and intent, so Indigenous people in Canada can thrive on this land together.
I’d also like to quickly quote something that was shared with me from the Living Hope Alliance Church in Regina, and it says:
To our First Nation, Metis and Inuit neighbours, as Lead Pastor of Living Hope and Moose Jaw Alliance Church, I say that I’m sorry for the indifference we’ve shown and the hurt the church has inflicted on you. I’m sorry we did not stand with you in the face of injustices both past and present. We desire to change. . . . We ask your forgiveness and desire reconciliation and desire to stand with you today.
I hope that we can all do that, colleagues.
Thank you. Hiy kitatamîhin.