National Indigenous History Month

By: The Hon. Jane Cordy

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Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, I would first like to acknowledge that we are meeting today on the traditional, unceded and unsurrendered territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabe Nation whose presence here reaches back to time immemorial. I extend my sincere gratitude and respect to them and to all First Nations, Inuit and Métis people who are the stewards of these lands.

I am pleased to rise today to tell you one of the ways in which the Progressive Senate Group has decided to mark the start of National Indigenous History Month.

Yesterday, staff and senators from the Progressive Senate Group participated in a Blanket Exercise, an interactive workshop that was created as a response to the Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples from 1996. Using blankets as a visual representation, we witnessed the many injustices inflicted on generations of Indigenous people, including through the aggressive and often deadly dispossession of their lands and the decimation of their families, communities, cultures, languages and entire ways of life.

As a result, we were able to deepen our understanding of the past and present realities of Indigenous people in what is now known as Canada.

I know I’m not the only one who found the experience tremendously impactful. Our Indigenous facilitators — John, Francine and Jesse — graciously shared their own experiences to teach us about a history that most of us were never taught, including about the lasting harms associated with the continued apprehension of Indigenous children through the child welfare systems. As we confronted the uncomfortable truths of our shared past and present, we cried — and we laughed — and we all walked away with a deeper understanding of the depth of injustice that has been borne by Indigenous people. More than that, we left with a renewed commitment to help advance reconciliation inside and outside this institution.

I encourage everyone to find their own ways to mark National Indigenous History Month. We need to honour the experiences of Indigenous Peoples, and that cannot happen without listening and learning with open hearts and open minds.

Thank you to Senator Francis and your staff for organizing such an opportunity. Thank you to the senators and staff who participated. The Blanket Exercise is an experience I certainly won’t forget, and I urge everyone to participate if you are ever offered the opportunity. Thank you. Meegwetch.

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