Hon. Brian Francis: Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute to those who lost their lives during the horrific attacks at James Smith Cree Nation and in Weldon. Among them were fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters and neighbours and friends who are loved and missed deeply.
I also want to honour those who were injured and forever changed by this tragedy. There are no words we can say that will soothe the immense pain, grief and many other emotions being felt. However, we can take the time to listen and act.
Colleagues, Chief Wally Burns of James Smith Cree Nation and other Indigenous leaders have called for greater access to mental health and substance-use treatment, as well as the establishment of First Nations-run police services. These and other issues affecting the well-being of Indigenous people cannot continue to be dealt with in a piecemeal manner. Immediate and effective action from all levels of government and society is long overdue.
I have no doubt that the people of James Smith Cree Nation and surrounding communities will continue to be there for each other in the coming months. Our people are incredibly strong, resilient and connected. However, we need help to not just survive but to thrive in Canada.
It is important to acknowledge that this tragedy did not occur in a vacuum. It is closely linked to the intergenerational violence and trauma that has been inflicted on Indigenous people. In recent years, there has been a lot of talk about reconciliation, but less so about truth, justice and healing, which must come first. We cannot establish and maintain a mutually respectful relationship with Indigenous peoples when so many of us are in crisis and dying.
I sincerely pray and hope all of us here and around the country will turn our collective outrage and sadness over this heartbreaking tragedy into real and lasting change. In my opinion, that would be the best way to honour and remember the victims and to prevent and reduce further injuries and deaths.
Wela’lin. Thank you.