Thank you so much for being here today. I appreciate this opportunity to sit on this committee and hear this conversation.
I'd like to carry on a little in the same vein as the member from Winnipeg in regard to the youth and the next generation. I totally appreciate what's trying to be achieved here and the whole issue around educating the 95% in a balanced way, remembering, but also the importance of celebrating. When I think about reconciliation, something like that requires truth to come forward, an apology—a very intentional apology—to be made and accepted. It requires the opportunity to move forward in ways that forgiveness and healing enable you to do.
I had a wonderful opportunity with a young chief. He was not from my riding, but we sat and he talked to me for hours about his experience. His father, who had also been a chief, and his mom had both been in the residential school system and suffered significantly. When former prime minister Harper gave his apology, this young man called his dad and said, “Dad,” and his dad replied, “I'm listening. I'm listening.” He couldn't talk. He was so overwhelmed with emotion and just sobbing that this was taking place.
This young chief said, “You know, I grew up in a home where both of my parents were survivors.” At that point that's what they were—survivors of the residential schools. They grew up in an atmosphere where they were told to duck if they saw a policeman coming along. He said, “I grew up thinking that I too was a residential school survivor,” until his dad had this experience and began the healing process. He said, “I came to the realization that I am not a residential school survivor,” and he talked about how he chose to go on with his life and is now leading his community and making huge impacts.
There is a lot to celebrate as we go through this whole process. I understand the angst of putting the two together, and yet if we don't I feel like we're failing to accomplish what we truly want to accomplish with my children and your children. I have 10 grandkids. I'm boasting a bit, I know. It's very important to me that they.... Quite honestly, my children grew up in schools where I called them the token whites. It's a different world out there now in so many ways.
When it comes to wrongs done, I come from a Ukrainian heritage. My grandfather came over just before Holodomor, and on Saturday night I'm going to remember millions of Ukrainians who were basically starved to death. They moved to Canada, and they remember, but in the midst of all that they also say to me, “Cathay, we kept our culture. We have our language. We are proud.” In some ways, they feel more Ukrainian here than they did in Ukraine—that is what they literally have said to me.
There are all those dynamics of, yes, remembering and making sure our children know and that we don't repeat, but also to make sure we're celebrating how far we've come and continue to go.
I have one more really brief thing. I'm on the veterans affairs committee as deputy shadow critic. We've travelled this whole last session, visiting with first nations, indigenous, Métis and Inuit veterans, and with Canadian Rangers. They're so amazing. They were not treated fairly, but not one of them regrets having served. This is where I see we have so much hope.
I also have a grandson whose birthday falls on Remembrance Day. As a young boy he said to me, “You know what, grandma? In the morning we are sad. In the afternoon we have a party.” It's important to teach our children that we need to remember, but we can also celebrate.
I just hope you feel there is room for both of those in that expression for this reconciliation day that you're looking for.