Madam Chair, I will be sharing my time with the member for Beaches—East York.
By now, Canadians are deeply saddened and disturbed with the recent discovery in Kamloops of the bodies of 215 children at the Indian residential school.
I have spoken in the House before about the TRC findings that one in 25 children who went to these schools did not come home. In comparison, one in 26 soldiers who served in World War II did not come home. World War II lasted six years, whereas many Indian residential schools lasted more than 40 years.
Tragically, we now see the evidence. We now have heard the proof of what the TRC has stated, what authors like Isabelle Knockwood wrote in her book Out of the Depths about the residential school in Shubenacadie. Tragically, we are hearing the information now in our heads. Many of us are now feeling it in our hearts as well. It is within our hands to take action with the head, the heart and the hands.
I have spent most of my adult life teaching, researching and presenting on the horrors of Indian residential schools, as a professor at Cape Breton University, as a treaty education lead for Nova Scotia and now as an MP in the House of Commons.
The TRC's calls to action are a blueprint for moving forward in the country. While we have supported and passed in the House two pieces of legislation, it is important that we reflect and work with all levels of government to do more. Many are in our hands within the federal government to change. I am willing to work with everyone to find solutions to move forward.
However, many of the calls to action speak to law societies, law schools, faith denominations; municipal and provincial governments. I would like to stress that we need to work with our provinces and our municipal governments, all people, especially around calls to action 10 and 62 that talk about the increased need for education in Canada and for us to understand, for every Canadian, every grade and every school to understand, what happened in the residential schools. I invite all parliamentarians, provincial premiers and departments of education to not hide the dark chapters of our country. Let us learn from them.
It is also important for all those speaking their language today, practising their culture today through songs, dances and ceremonies to be supported by all levels of government.
For all those indigenous peoples practising their culture, teaching their languages and promoting their languages, I thank to them today. Let us not let this debate be in vain. Let the words we speak tonight build on a better future that supports, protects and promotes indigenous peoples in all our ridings.
After speaking to my elders and leaders within the Mi’kmaq communities that I represent, they advised me that the strongest way that I, as an indigenous member of Parliament, could bring honour to those lives that were taken and for all those survivors was to show that the very language and culture that was once threatened with cultural genocide is now being shared, promoted and spoken within the House of Commons.
[Member spoke in Mi’kmaq and provided the following text:]
Pasi’k ketu Tlimuloq
Kejutuek tan telji olai’utkik Kikmnaqi’k
Kejituek tan telji olo’ta’snik mijuajijk aq pukolkik mu apajitakik
Aq nutaq me’ msit Kapalnukw, akatmnew tan teluwi’tmi’tij kisikuk L’joqotukemkewey kis na reconciliation.
Nasik tan anki’tetmanek tal kis miawalkik telji pukolkik tan weni’k Wejitajik residential schools
Amujpa kinawa’ta’qik msit wen wula wenji’kwuom, ujit msit tan weji’tasnik aq olaitkik
mu kespu’tuwu’wek, me’ elmotiek, me’ mimaju’lltiek, me’ lnuistikw, me lnu’tasltikw.
Keji’tu mu na naqmasi’anuk tan wejitaik, Nasik pipanmlnoq siawi lnuitasimk, siawi lnusltinoq aq mu iajpu awantasu tan weni’n aq tan wejitaik.
Aq Nekmey, teli siawi’ta’tisnuk elmiknek, mawi apoqnmatultinej
Kisi Api’jatisnu’kw Taqu’we’ entu’kpnek
[Member provided the following translation:]
All my relations, before I conclude my thoughts today, I just want to tell everyone that we understand how mistreated our indigenous families have been. We understand how mistreated our children were and how so many did not come home.
We need all of government to take a look at how we can restore the balance to our communities or what is often referred to as “reconciliation”.
However, when I thought of how we could best honour our survivors of residential schools, I have to say to all the members of our House of Commons, on behalf of all who went and were mistreated, they were not successful. We are still here, we are resilient, we still speak our languages and we practise our culture.
I know it has been difficult, with what we have been through, however I am asking indigenous people to keep their culture strong, to keep speaking their languages, and to never forget who they are as an indigenous person and what we have been through.
That is how we flourish and survive moving forward by working together. We can bring back some of what was lost, all my relations.