Hon. Brian Francis: Honourable senators, I rise today in advance of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, which is the direct outcome of the courage, determination and advocacy of survivors.
On this solemn day, Turtle Island is called upon to honour the Indigenous children who needlessly and senselessly suffered and died at Indian residential schools, Indian day schools and associated sites.
The government, churches and broader society told generations of us that we were less valuable, less worthy and less human. To them, we were savages who would amount to nothing. These, of course, are unfounded, racist and discriminatory beliefs. However, when forced to be ashamed of who we are and where we come from, it can be a lifelong journey to believe otherwise, especially when some still do not see us as equals.
Colleagues, I am proud to say that despite the atrocious ways Indigenous Peoples have been — and continue to be — treated, we have endured, persisted and survived. We have been here since time immemorial and are not going anywhere. While there is still progress to be made, I am hopeful for our future. I look up to my daughter, Kateri, and my granddaughter Kiara — who are here today — and I cannot think of a better legacy.
I know our children and grandchildren will help ensure that the true history of our shared country is never forgotten. It is they who will lead the work to help our people and communities recover, rebuild and prosper.
At the same time, colleagues, my heart is heavy, because after decades of fighting to be heard, believed and supported, survivors — along with our families and communities — continue to be subjected to the violence of indifference and denial. There are those, for example, who seek to reject, minimize and even ridicule what happened to Indigenous children while in the care of the state and churches, including their burials in unmarked sites. In addition, barriers — such as a lack of access to records and sites — continue to prevent families and communities from finding answers. These are some of the pressing issues that are undermining the ongoing search for truth, justice and healing.
Honourable senators, on and around September 30, I sincerely hope you will all take time to learn, reflect and participate in educational and commemorative activities. As an institution, we must take responsibility for our role in the past and ongoing harm inflicted on Indigenous people, and work every day to meaningfully address it.
Wela’lin. Thank you.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.