This past Friday, Senator St. Germaine and I had the honour of presenting at the conference, entitled, “The Need for Justice and Equality for Indigenous and All Women” cohosted by the Elixabeth fry society du Quebec, the association canadienne des societies Elizabeth fry et l’University de Montreal.
Held on unceded Mohawk territory, opened by Kanehsatake Elder John Cree, andEllen Gabriel, Cultural consultant for the Kanehsata:ke Language and Cultural Centre. The conference included a message from Senator Murray Sinclair and presentations by Dr. Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, and six courageous Indigenous women, 5 of whom have experienced marginalization and victimization, as well as criminalization and imprisonment.
Two attended residential schools – all experienced the inter-generational impact, and against all odds, are now building their lives, as they integrate into communities across this country. The youngest was born in prison and is graduating high school this month and commencing her studies at the University of Saskatchewan this fall.
To each of them, to Joey, Yvonne, Odelia, Lisa, Kaila and to Haley, I say, Meegwetch. Thank you for your bravery, your resilience and your strength …. Thank you for surviving some of the most unimaginable horrors. Thank you for the privilege of allowing me to walk with, learn from and advocate on behalf of you.
We also heard about the extreme lack of funding allotted to First Nations communities for the education of children – 1/3rd less than any other Canadian child living off reserve. In fact, only one in six has grown up with clean drinking water – that would be as if only 17 of us in this Chamber would have had the opportunity to actually drink water from our taps…
It was Supreme Court of Canada Justice Rosalee Abella who once observed, “We have no business figuring out the cost of justice until we can figure out the cost of injustice,”…Honourable Senators.
It was Gord Downie who said that when it comes to the poverty, racism and discrimination suffered by the Aboriginal people of Canada – we have been trained to look away. I urge each and every one of us to not look away.
As stated by, Cindy Blackstock, we must act now to ensure that future generations of Indigenous children don’t have to recover from their childhood – and future generations non Indigenous children don’t have to say they’re sorry…
Thank you, Merci, Meegwetch”
— Senator Kim Pate