Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Issue 19 - Evidence - March 29, 2017
OTTAWA, Wednesday, March 29, 2017
The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples met this day at 6:46 p.m.
to study the new relationship between Canada and First Nations, Inuit and Métis
Senator Lillian Eva Dyck (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Bonjour, good evening, tansi, I would like to
welcome all honourable senators and members of the public who are watching this
meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, either here in
the room or listening via the Web.
I would like to acknowledge for the sake of reconciliation that we are
meeting on the traditional lands of the Algonquin peoples. My name is Lillian
Dyck from Saskatchewan, and I have the honour and privilege of chairing this
First and foremost, I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to our
witnesses this evening. I will introduce them a little bit later on. We
recognize that it may be difficult for you to express your experiences in Indian
residential schools to the committee, and I thank you very much for that on
behalf of the committee.
It's worth putting on our record that the former Prime Minister Stephen
Harper apologized in 2008 for the Indian residential school system, and I will
quote for the record several passages from it:
Two primary objectives of the Residential Schools system were to remove and
isolate children from the influence of their homes, families, traditions and
cultures, and to assimilate them into the dominant culture. These objectives
were based on the assumption Aboriginal cultures and spiritual beliefs were
inferior and unequal. Indeed, some sought, as it was infamously said, "to
kill the Indian in the child''. Today, we recognize that this policy of
assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our
country. . . .
The government now recognizes that the consequences of the Indian
Residential Schools policy were profoundly negative and that this policy has
had a lasting and damaging impact on Aboriginal culture, heritage and
language. While some former students have spoken positively about their
experiences at residential schools, these stories are far overshadowed by
tragic accounts of the emotional, physical and sexual abuse and neglect of
helpless children, and their separation from powerless families and
That's the end of the quotation from former Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
We should also note that, in June 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation
Commission delivered its initial summary report that documented the tragic
legacy of Indian residential schools and outlined 94 calls to action to
reconcile and move forward positively. While many Canadians and many educational
institutions have embraced the report, there is some resistance.
For many decades, there was denial about what happened in Indian residential
schools. There was denial about the impact and the intergenerational legacy and,
even today, there are some who refuse to acknowledge the full truth about Indian
residential schools. As an example of this denial, I will quote briefly from an
email message that was sent to me 11 days ago: "The residential school idea was
a good intention gone bad. The main trouble was that the teachers did not have
the knowledge and skills to handle all the mental illness and behaviour problems
and emotional problems of the children already caused by the insane and
Hearing such misinformation about Indian residential schools harms all
Canadians. Ignorance such as this leads to prejudice, and prejudice feeds
racism. So, tonight, we and our viewers are extremely fortunate to be educated
by two survivors about what really happened in Indian residential schools. We
will be able to listen and learn and feel the impact of their experiences on
Witnesses, tonight you honour us with your presence and your testimony this
Before we begin, I would like my fellow senators to introduce themselves,
starting on my right with the deputy chair.
Senator Patterson: Senator Dennis Patterson from Nunavut.
Senator Tannas: Senator Scott Tannas from Alberta.
Senator Raine: Nancy Greene Raine from B.C.
Senator Oh: Victor Oh, Ontario.
Senator Beyak: Lynn Beyak, Ontario.
Senator Boniface: Gwen Boniface, Ontario.
Senator Pate: Kim Pate, Ontario.
Senator Mégie: Marie-Françoise Mégie from Quebec.
Senator Dupuis: Renée Dupuis from Quebec.
Senator Christmas: Dan Christmas from Nova Scotia.
Senator Watt: Charlie Watt from Nunavik.
Senator Brazeau: Patrick Brazeau from Quebec.
The Chair: Thank you, senators.
Tonight, we continue with our study on what a new relationship between the
government and First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples in Canada could look like.
As I said previously, tonight we are honoured to have Doris Young and John
Morrisseau, members of the Indian Residential School Survivor Committee of the
Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
So lady and gentleman, you have the floor. Ms. Young, are you proceeding
Senator Sinclair: If you don't mind, Madam Chair, I'm just going to
introduce them briefly and indicate, for the record and for the public, why I'm
sitting over here and not over there, where I normally sit.
As I indicated to members of the committee before, because these two people
are coming here in order to talk to members of the committee, I had indicated to
them, in the invitation that was extended to them when we heard that they were
being called, that I would be honoured to sit with them in order to show them my
support, and I would step down as a member of the committee temporarily for
purposes of this meeting.
I am here just to show them support and not necessarily as a witness, but, if
members of the committee wish me to answer a question, I'll do that. I should
indicate that we are arranging for the commissioners for the TRC to attend, and,
at that time, hopefully all three commissioners will be available to answer
questions about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
However, let me just indicate that, on my immediate right, of course, is
Doris Young, who is a member of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation, who has been and was
a member of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Survivor Committee during
the tenure of the TRC, a Cree woman who is an extremely brave lady. But one
thing in common so that we can put the issue on the record, she and I share a
grandchild because her daughter and my son managed to get together before we
could catch them, and, as a result, they created our beautiful grandchild Sarah.
She's here, though, to talk about her experience and not about my qualities as a
On the far right of me is my good friend going back probably I don't want to
say 50 years but close to it, John Morrisseau, former president for the Manitoba
Metis Federation, a well-known Metis leader in Canada, and appointed to the TRC
survivors committee on behalf of the Metis students who had been in the
residential schools as well. Both of them were part of our entire process at the
commission and can tell you about the experiences that they brought to the
With that opening, I'll hand it over to Doris, I guess. Will you go first or
Doris Young, Member of the Indian Residential School Survivor Committee,
as an individual:
[Witness spoke in her Native language.]
It's a tremendous honour for me to be speaking to the senators of Canada.
Thank you for the invitation. First, I would like to recognize the territory of
the Algonquin people, whose territory our Parliament sits on.
My name is Doris Young, and I bring you warm greetings from the Opaskwayak
Cree Nation. It's Treaty 5 area, and it's situated in northern Manitoba. I have
been introduced already, so I won't be doing that part.
My presentation this evening is about the break in Aboriginal culture and
language when we were removed from our land and forcibly sent to residential
schools. This forced assimilation process has impacted both Aboriginal and non-
Aboriginal people, causing many misunderstandings, thus making it harder to
achieve reconciliation with all Canadians.
As we all know, there has been a tremendous amount of research and
investigation into Aboriginal life in residential schools and the long-term
effects on the children, on their families and their communities.
While this separation is widely acknowledged, the separation of the children
from the land is hardly mentioned. This separation or disconnection runs deep in
all of us. The failure of researchers, analysts and policy-makers to pay
attention to this reality is like the failure of detached and disconnected
fragments of sentences to make a cohesive statement.
This ongoing failure to recognize the effects of the land separation on
Aboriginal children must be recognized and addressed.
Differences in perspectives, why it is important to know: First, the
connection of Aboriginal people to our land and territories is significant for
all Aboriginal people. I have noticed that non-Aboriginal people do not always
understand what we mean when we talk about our connection to the land. Let me
For us, it is not about ownership and money. The concept of uski to
the Cree is much broader than the Eurocentric concept of the land and the
environment. Uski, to the Cree, includes all living things, such as the
animals, the plants, the trees, the fish, the rivers, the lakes, and including
the rocks. Uski also includes our concept of the sky world.
We understand that human beings are only a small part of our environment and
that humans are totally dependent on uski for their survival. As a Cree
person, I cannot separate myself from my land and my sacred obligations to
preserve it for seven generations and beyond. This means we have been given the
responsibility to protect the land and everything on it. Cree people
respectfully acknowledge all living creatures as relatives. The Cree word is
ni wakomakun nin anuk, "our relations.''
It is the world view that makes us unique in Western culture.
Land is culture, what it means. The land connects us to our language and our
spirituality, our values, our traditions and our laws of mino bimatasiwin,
which is the good life. In short, the land personifies who we are. It is the
heart of our identity. It is our very lives, our souls, which are connected to
the land of our ancestors.
Cree laws taught in our sacred ceremonies, conducted only in Cree, teach and
reinforce our sacred relationships and duty to our ancestors and our land. For
the Cree, it is tipenimisowin. We own ourselves, and this means creating
and enforcing our laws and governing systems. Women carry the laws and men
enforce the laws. Onaschekâwina, how we are to govern ourselves using our
sacred laws, including wahkotowin, how we relate to one another; uski,
how we are to protect our environment; nibi, how we are to protect the
sacred waters; pastahowin and ochinewin, the natural laws and the
consequences when we break our laws, including our seven sacred teachings.
Every man and every woman has been given certain responsibilities, and the
most sacred responsibility for me as a woman is the protection of the water. I
am a water keeper. I have the responsibility to ensure that we will always have
clean water so that future generations can be assured a healthy, viable
environment. Without clean water, we will not survive.
Uski, remember, means the land and everything on it. To me, she is a
woman; and to my late husband, uski was the most beautiful and generous
woman that ever was. She is our essence. We honour her and our Creator in our
songs, our dances and spiritual practices, and in our ceremonies. This is
critical to know and to remember: Our spiritual teachings can only be fully
transmitted through Aboriginal languages, the first languages of Canada.
Non-Aboriginal people cannot fully appreciate who we really are and what we
have lost without knowing that the land and the language that we so love are our
lifeline. Land and language are basic to Cree life. Without our language and our
land, as a people we are disconnected from who we are. When we are disconnected,
we become weak in spirit, we become sick in body, and we will die. But as long
as we are able to reconnect to our land, our languages and our ceremonies, our
culture will live on. We will remain strong as a people and as a nation.
Non-Aboriginal views: Appreciate the differences.
Some people are genuinely sympathetic when they hear Aboriginal people
talking about our land and how much it means to us, but they still do not fully
understand its meaning. Here is an example:
As a Cree person, I have a connection to my birthplace, the Opaskwayak Cree
Nation in northern Manitoba. That land nourishes my spirit and connects me to my
language, to the Creator and to my ancestors. I know who I am when I am out
there. I feel alive; I feel happy. Many of my non-Aboriginal friends do not
clearly grasp this statement.
Another example: Many years ago, the Province of Manitoba granted permission
to build hydro dams in the North. In that process, they removed entire
communities of Aboriginal people in order to flood their lands. Aboriginals were
given other lands, often less valuable land. When they protested, the
government's response was: "What difference does it make? They still have
land.'' But it was different. They lost connection with their trees, their
rivers, their animals and the land of their ancestors.
Effects of removing Aboriginal children from the land: What are the impacts?
Removing children from their land and their families has caused similar
losses to the flooding of the lands. Non- Aboriginal people do not always
understand this. From my own experience of residential schools, being
disconnected from my land caused me to feel disoriented, isolated and lost, for
many, many years. The core of my identity was missing, like dago bi ji kana e
be ko buni ki, as in "broken links in a chain.'' The important links in my
life were broken. These broken links are visible in many other Aboriginal lives;
in the child welfare system, the high rates of incarceration of Aboriginal
peoples, the addictions and the suicides.
When the underlying trauma causes of stresses and hidden anxieties in
Aboriginal lives are not recognized and named, finding solutions to these
problems is immeasurably challenging. Finally, when we were taken away to
residential schools, our parents never anticipated the near disappearance of our
languages. They could never have envisioned anything so horrid could have ever
happened in our homelands.
In Canada, there are two official languages recognized and supported: French
and English. Many resources are invested to preserve the French language, but
very few resources are provided to preserve Aboriginal languages. At one time
there were over 60 Aboriginal languages and up to 250 dialects. The real tragedy
is that within 150 years, only three Aboriginal languages are expected to
survive: Cree, Ojibway and Inuktitut.
Concluding thoughts and the way forward: I want to leave you with my own
I was a three-year-old child removed from my family, my connection to my land
and my culture. I have struggled all my life to find my way back to my land, my
ancestors, my culture. I could not teach my children my precious Cree language.
I could speak it, but school had taught me to be ashamed of it. I lost my
understanding of who I was. I lost my pride in being Cree. I was destructive to
myself. I was suicidal. I have reclaimed myself, but it has taken too many years
and too many tears to find my way.
My hope is that non-Aboriginal people will do their part to have a better
understanding of the impact regarding the near loss of our languages, the break
from the land and our spiritual disconnection from our ancestors.
In closing, I am making three key proposals. One, I propose that Aboriginal
values be respectfully acknowledged and included in the Senate's analysis of
government policies and programs. In particular, that the Senate acknowledge the
Aboriginal world view of the land, what it means to us, what culture means to
us, what language means to us, what our ancestors and our spiritual connections
to the land means to us.
Number two, I propose the development and implementation of an indigenous
knowledge centre to help senators become more aware and sensitive to the history
and negative effects of residential schools and colonialization. I recommend the
centre be developed with the advice and help of TRC's recommendations and the
Aboriginal people, especially the elders.
Number three, I recommend that the Senate support any future legislative
proposals and bills to retain and promote Aboriginal languages in Canada.
Thank you for your attention. I look forward to a growing and more positive
relationship between the Senate and the Aboriginal peoples of Canada.
John Morrisseau, Member of the Indian Residential School Survivor
Committee, as an individual: Good evening. My name is John Morrisseau. I am
a Metis from Manitoba. I was born the year the war broke out, in 1939. This
year, I will be 78 years old come August 18.
I had the fortune or, maybe, the misfortune of growing up at a time in our
communities where our people were running away. Our people were hiding. It was
not popular in those early years to be Metis. People hid. We lost our language,
the Michif language, in Manitoba and across the country.
If you go back and look at our people, there were different cultures as part
of the Michif people in Manitoba. It was a nation of mixed blood. We had people
who intermarried with the French community, the Cree community, the Ojibway
community and so on.
The early days, after what had taken place with the Metis in Manitoba, people
began to hide. One of the first things they had to hide was their language
because it wasn't popular to speak the language in Manitoba as a Michif person.
My dad spoke it, his family spoke it, but only when they gathered together
and no one else was around. As a young boy, I remember wondering why we couldn't
go out and be open about who we were.
It took a long time for me to find that out, but what they did to our
language is that based on the language that you spoke, the mixed language of the
Michif people, some of our people began to speak more French. When questioned,
they were French people. Some people spoke more Cree, and so they became
Cree-speaking people. For some it was the Ojibway language that was spoken. That
was the language of being hidden from who we really we are.
I grew up in an era when people were afraid. People were afraid to come out
and say who they were, so they had to hide.
My family, with the name of Morrisseau, spoke a lot of French. There were
very few of them that retained their language as the Michif language, a mixed
language. Because it was so difficult to have that language spoken, we've lost
it. Basically, our language is gone.
The old people who have passed on now, the true Michif speakers, are no
longer with us. We lost my dad a few years back. He was the last one in our
family who spoke the language and could speak it with his brothers and sisters.
He happened to be the last surviving brother in his family, so our language went
My mother didn't speak the language. She spoke Saulteaux. She was an Ojibway.
She never got to speak it, so we lost that language.
I remember growing up as a young boy and wondering why those things happened.
We used to have to move. We would be in a location for a while, and people would
come and say, "Get the horses and the wagons. We have to move. We have to go to
It took a long time for me to understand why that was happening. What was
happening was that as the farmers and the ranchers moved north to where we were,
they were taking the land. We didn't have any land. The only land that we had to
keep the few cows and horses that we had was always picked alongside the road
allowances or picked up in sloughs or wherever ranchers didn't go.
For years that took place, until finally we had some form of an agreement
where we could start to lease. Today, most of our people are living on leased
land out in the communities.
At Crane River where I grew up, it's a small Metis community. That's the way
we made our living. Schooling was not something that was a big part of us.
I went to school with a Catholic priest. I ran away before I was 12 years
old. It was not something that I like to talk about. I keep it away from my
family. It's a secret that I've carried. Those things were not good things.
I ran away, and I went to work. I was two months short of going to my first
job. I started working for a rancher in the area, and I stayed there for over
three years working.
You can tell by what I'm saying that I never got an education when I went to
school. I like to think that today, the things that I've done in the past, that
I've taken over in my lifetime, I've done some things that have been helpful for
me and for my family.
I have a family of six children. My wife and I got married in 1960. On August
10 this year, we'll have been together — God willing — for 57 years. I've got to
say this on behalf Nellie, in case she gets to see it. She'll kill me if I
didn't. Murray knows her.
When we went to Grand Rapids to get married in 1960, that was before the dam
for hydroelectric power that was being built in northern Manitoba. That was the
first place they built. There were no roads. We flew into Grand Rapids, and we
went to get married. We walked to the church through the bush. There were no
I tease her about that because — and I'll say this because I hope she is
listening — she ran ahead and me, and she was there long before I got there, so
I had no choice. If you hear her story, she'll have a completely opposite story.
But going back to the young days of growing up at home, school was not
something that was there. We ended up having the Catholic priest come in and
build a log house which the men helped build. Then we started school.
First of all, Catholic priests are not teachers. I got to learn how to serve
mass in Latin. I paid a lot of penalties for that that I will not talk about.
But I was taken all the time over to his house until I ran away. So I never got
the schooling. Then we carried on in the community.
I went back years later to raise some cattle with my brothers and my dad. We
have six children, and they started to go to school.
Our little community of Crane River only has Grade 8 today. This is the year
2017, and we haven't moved beyond a Grade 8 education in our community, and we
live in Canada. Why are we allowing that to happen?
Once you pass Grade 8, you had to go away. So the children grew up at home,
our boys had to go and take their education, if they wanted Grade 12, outside of
the community. We had an outfit in Manitoba, called Frontier School Division.
They built a big school at Cranberry Portage, which for us was some 300 miles
We sent our children. They would leave in the fall, in September, and they
wouldn't come back until the end of June.
Cranberry Portage was never considered a residential school. It was a place
away where our boys went for 10 months and. The separation that grew between our
boys and the rest of their brothers, the younger ones, could never be repaired.
It will always be that they're different.
I just wanted to tell a couple of stories about the old people before I move
on. We were hunters and fishers and trappers and that was our lifestyle. What we
used to do is in the fall, we would load up the cattle or calves, chase the cows
behind and we would go north to a community, 8 or 10 miles, to the fishing camp.
And we would spend all winter fishing. In the springtime we would come back and
men would go out and we dug Seneca root, picked berries or worked for local
farmers. That was our lifestyle.
The stories of some of the old people that were there is that there are
things that have stayed with me because many years later, when I was the
president of the Manitoba Metis Federation, and that was in 1976. And at that
time we had a lot of issues on the table and I guess we were getting a little
pushy with government. I came home on a weekend, and my dad said to me, "Your
uncle wants to see you. He's very worried about you.'' Why would my uncle be
worried about me?
So I knew from past dealings with my uncle and aunt that the best time to go
visit them was at five o'clock in the morning. People wonder why you go at five
o'clock in the morning. Aunt Sarah was just pulling the fresh bannock buns out
of the oven and the homemade butter was just something. We were sitting at the
table in this little log house, and there were only three of us sitting across
the table and he started to whisper to me. And I said, "Uncle, what's the
matter?'' He says, "They're going to kill you. They're going to kill you.'' What
are you talking about? He was 83 years old. I asked, "Uncle, what's the
matter?'' And he said, "You can't do what you're doing. They're going to kill
So it just goes to show that man, at 83 years old, has carried that story
from running away all his life and he died with it. And that was my dad's older
brother. Because of the things that they were afraid of — the loss of their
land, the loss of their language and the battles that went on in bringing
Manitoba into confederation where the Metis people were involved — those are the
things that happened. But education was not part of my life. I had to work, I
had to do things, I joined the Canadian Armed Forces, spent six years, and it
was a good educational role for me.
I went off, worked for government and organizations, and today when I look at
where this all brought us, and surely the TRC work that was done by Senator
Murray Sinclair and his commissioners and the work that was happening, the 94
calls to action, are great things going on in our country.
There were two calls to action for the Metis because we were not part of the
Truth and Reconciliation Commission. But our story is the same. My cousin was
dying and I went to his bedside and I knew he was leaving. And I said, "Ernie,
did you have the things happen?'' And at his death bed he said, "Yes,'' he said,
"I had to run away from that man.''
Those are the things that happened in our schools and in our lives. The sad
part about it is that we have no avenue to tell that story. We were left out.
I have my own ideas of why it was left out but I think it's a political thing
and I don't want to get into that. But surely we have a story to tell, and
things that we need to do. What's happening to our people, we don't have the
education that we should have gotten, we don't have the support, and we've
always been dealing with those things privately and always afraid. So no one
wants to fight, no one wants to stand up, no one wants to take that issue
forward. It's been a difficult time.
I don't know how much time that I've used up, but that's our story. Today I'm
here and I'm happy that I've got an opportunity to speak. As you probably know,
I don't write notes and do things and there are some reasons for that. I try but
all I do is scribble and sometimes I can't even understand my scribblings. But
I'd like to make a recommendation, and that's for Metis people.
We have three Supreme Court cases that have gone through. First of all, I
want to go back to 1982 and the repatriation of the Constitution.
In the repatriation of the Constitution, for the first time in our life, we
were recognized as part of the Aboriginal family of Canada. What has that meant
for us? What did that do for us?
We're part of the Aboriginal family of Canada, but nothing has happened for
us. Most recently, we went through the Supreme Court of Canada with the Metis
land claims. It was under my leadership in 1980 that the first statement of
claim went to court. And that was tied to repatriation of the Constitution
because of the Manitoba Act.
The Manitoba Act, particularly sections 31, 32 and 33, which dealt with
language, linguistic, land and cultural rights, that legislation said that the
powers of Canada, the House of Commons, the Manitoba legislature did not have
the power to alter or amend, and so we had to be involved in the repatriation.
But that's as far as it went. Most recently, we have the 91(24) Harry
Daniels case which also deals with Metis. We have all that information, all
of that stuff on the table. What's going to happen to us?
People are meeting, they are doing different things and nothing is happening.
And we're all getting older. Time is going by, and people are seeing things in a
different way. But they don't understand the lifestyle where we came from. They
don't understand what it was like to wander around being chased from one piece
of land to the next, to make your hay and have somebody come and pick it up. It
was just constantly and nobody would talk back.
Today, when you look at repatriation, the two different court cases that are
there, we still don't have anyone talk back. We had the Truth and Reconciliation
Commission and the 94 calls to action. There are two calls of action that were
put in on behalf of the Metis, and I thank Senator Sinclair for listening and
putting that in because that's the only announcement that came for the Metis in
all of that work that was there.
But where are we? We're forgotten people and we keep saying that we're a
forgotten people. It was the Metis people in Manitoba, in the 1800s, 1,200
strong, that helped form the province of Manitoba and we've lost that.
Today I'm glad that I've had a chance to share that. There are many other
things that need to be shared, but I would just like to leave it. The
recommendation I would like to have move forward is that, in all of that stuff,
we should have recognition for education for our children. Today our children
don't have the proper schools at home. They don't have the proper financial
background to go on to better their education.
I look at education for our children as an investment. The more you put into
our people and helping them get a better education, the more of your investment
will come back to you. That's what I always say to my children. It's going to
cost money to do that, but once you've got your education, you go to work and
you bring it back. I have been fortunate in some ways of getting my children in
that area, but I'm not here talking about my children. I'm here talking about
the numbers of children that are out there, that are wandering and have no
direction because we have no education, and that's where we're at.
I thank you very much for listening to me.
The Chair: Thank you very much for your presentations.
Senator Patterson: I would like to thank both witnesses for opening
your hearts to us tonight and sharing your experiences. It's been very helpful
to get your recommendations. We're doing an ambitious study about trying to
reset the relationship and help the new government decide what a new
relationship should be with Aboriginal peoples of Canada. This advice you have
given us is very helpful.
I would like to begin with Ms. Doris Young. Thank you for your stories and
your moving description of the importance of the land and language and culture
that only Aboriginal people can really fully understand. You asked us to support
legislation that will support Aboriginal languages. Our committee is about to
consider a bill that would deal with that. It's been introduced in the Senate. I
think we will address that recommendation of yours as a committee. I thank you
for reinforcing its importance.
It's sad that it seems of all the Aboriginal languages that your parents
never anticipated would disappear, there's really only three that are expected
to survive. You mentioned Cree, Ojibway and Inuktitut, which is spoken in my
region. Do you still have hope that the Aboriginal languages can be revived?
What would you like to see come out of this legislation? Is it too late to bring
them back, or what could the legislation help accomplish?
Ms. Young: Thank you for the question. It's an important one. Our
languages are our lives. Without them, we will not be Cree or Ojibway or
whatever other Aboriginal heritage somebody has. It's really important for all
of the senators to understand that. Those first languages of Canada, it is our
history, all of us. It's not only the Cree or the Ojibway. It's all of the
people of Canada whose history will just go away if we don't support those
The one thing that we're finding when we're attempting to teach the languages
is that we don't have enough teachers. We need teacher programs in order to be
able to teach our children those languages. We can't do it at home the way we
used to because many of us have different relations. We maybe don't have a Cree
partner. We have different partners. Our society also is not very supportive in
our attempt to be speaking our languages in our communities. So that's a real
One of the problems is that our people still feel shame when we're asked to
speak our languages. We were beaten. We were ridiculed. A lot of our people
still carry that shame. It makes it that much harder for us to push our need to
be able to revive those languages. I think until we start speaking about that
shame that we still feel, that we still carry, I think we're going to be kind of
at a standstill with that. However, the teacher training programs will be really
helpful. Every community needs that.
I work at the University College of the North in The Pas, Manitoba. We didn't
find any teacher training programs when we started, and so we have that one at
The Pas, at the University College of the North. It's a small program. The whole
program is taught in Cree. So there are teachers. There are people who are
interested and knowledgeable to teach, but there are so few of them. Most of
them are in their sixties. They're not going to be around that much longer.
We have an immersion program at home. It's been difficult keeping it afloat
because we don't get finances for it. The education money that we're getting at
the Opaskwayak Cree Nation is not for languages. It's for all other things, but
they squeeze the money out of their budgets to do the immersion program.
So a teacher education program is really important. If I can't stress any
other one tonight, that's the one that I would really like to see grow.
Senator Patterson: Your recommendation is covered in the TRC call to
action on education. Thank you for that recommendation. I'm sure our committee
will be considering that when we come to make our report.
Mr. Morrisseau, thank you for telling us your story. Maybe I can just share a
bit of my experience as Minister of Education in the Northwest Territories. We
consulted communities about sending their kids away to school. We had a
committee that reviewed our education system. Of course, the parents said we
don't want to send our kids to regional schools. We found out that you can
develop Grade 12 programs in the smallest communities, and that was done in
Alaska as a result of a class action case. It can happen, even in your community
of Crane River.
I'm just shocked to hear that children of your home community can't go past
Grade 8. It seems to me that would be one of the very important changes that we
could make. We're trying to undo the damage from the residential school era, and
we're still sending kids away. I thank you for that.
I guess that was more of a comment, but I want to say something as well about
the Metis. You're saying we can't overlook the Metis as we talk about
reconciliation. You mentioned education. I think we have got that, but what can
we do about the land question for Metis? Do you have any thoughts about it? You
described the loss of land and having to be always moved by settlers. Is there a
way that can be redressed going forward?
Mr. Morrisseau: Thank you for that. We have been wrestling with that
difficult question because our province is getting crowded in many different
ways. There is lots of involvement with other landowners in the area.
That whole question takes away a whole number of things from us that over the
years we tried to put together in order for our people to survive. One is having
the right to fish and the right to hunt, which was part of our lifestyle. Today
that is being crowded out because we don't have the land to do that.
How that question will go, and whether we do that in communities, such as a
little community like Crane River where we have a lot of provincial Crown land
set aside specifically for Metis, will be very difficult because we have outside
landholders, leaseholders, already totally in our community.
Those are questions, I guess, that would have to be made at a much higher
level if we wanted to move people out so that people in the community can get
the land back. The only rancher left in my community — and we used to have 10 or
12 — is my brother. Everybody else has gone because the land is all taken. When
he goes, that land will go to someone else. Our whole community will be gone
unless the government steps up and says that lands are set aside for the
residents of those communities.
The only way we can resolve that issue is by having that land set aside for
the ranchers, the landholders in the area. I live at Grand Rapids, Manitoba,
which was also a strong Metis community, and one of the communities that was
settled through the Hudson Bay and the people coming from the Hudson Bay down to
Nelson. Today all of that land is already taken up. We can't even go out and get
wood, and we live in Grand Rapids. That's five and a half hours north of
Winnipeg, but we can't go and get firewood because of the companies coming in,
the loggers, and so on. We can't do that.
We have to revert back to electric power. Last year in Grand Rapids, some
wood was left out in the bush that the conservation officer said we could take.
We went out and took it and then we got a bill in the mail for the wood. You
can't do anything like that. Everything is taken. Unless the government steps up
and starts to set parcels of land away from those companies and sets it aside
for their use, I don't know any other way you would be able to return that land.
Senator Patterson: Thank you.
Senator Enverga: Thank you for your presentation. I was touched with
all the stories that you mentioned to us. One of the things that I was listening
to intently was the fact that you support legislation to promote the language
and to teach programs about the way of the land.
We have had professors as our witnesses here previously and they said they
have some curriculum and teachings that perhaps tell the story, but are they
telling the right stories? Do they reflect your views about what you want to be
taught to your kids or to the children? Do they reflect that?
Ms. Young: I wasn't here, so I don't know what they said.
Senator Enverga: When you say "teach students the language,'' is there
enough documentation? Have the educational tools been compiled so that we can
promote it to everybody? Is there something like that?
Ms. Young: There is some information around ceremonial things that I
know of and how we relate to the land in the way that I was talking about
tonight. At the University College of the North we take students out; the Oscar
Lathlin High School also takes the high school students out, and they learn how
to live on the land — not the way that we used to, but there is some information
that they can get. The elders are part of that, what we call "land education.''
Some of that is going on. I'm a Cree speaker and because I know about the
land, I tried to reflect in my presentation the connection that we still all
need to have in order to be able to relate to what I'm saying. What kind of
programs can we have in order for us to be able to preserve that part of who we
are? Some of it has to be done at ceremonial time. A lot of our people are
Christians and they are not willing to know about our spirituality because of
Back home we can teach very basic land information, but when we start talking
about the spirituality, who we associate with on that land and why, the
Christians are very upset about that. We have this break in our relationships
when we start that discussion. It's getting better, but it's still there.
Land and spiritual values are very connected, and a lot of our people don't
Senator Enverga: Referring to the language and the cultural study you
know and are telling us about, do you think it is something that we should teach
everybody in the school system as a prerequisite before they can graduate from
Ms. Young: I think everybody should support the idea so that when
we're doing the programs, or we're asking people to come to our ceremonies, it's
not something that we have to have bad relations in our community about.
Can you help?
Senator Sinclair: Part of the problem I think, senator, that Doris is
talking about is that the communities themselves have no access to curriculum
development materials or curriculum development money. So when you talk about
providing an educational program that everybody should take, it's going to
require the development of curriculum materials and training of teachers to
deliver those materials, and most of the communities don't have that.
In addition, if there's going to be any cultural content that deals with
traditional teachings around spirituality, there's always resistance from the
community, those who are in conflict, particularly those who have adopted
Christianity. In particular in the North, fundamentalist churches have come to
dominate the communities because the bigger churches, the United Church, the
Anglicans, the Catholics have moved out of many of those communities in
recognition of the harm that they've already done. But other church movements
have moved in and have created a bigger schism between the people who want to
follow their own traditions and their cultures and the element of people who are
still afraid to go back to that because of the teachings they received either in
residential schools or are receiving today.
There's resistance within the communities to developing that, but as a matter
of policy and approach what we said in the TRC report was that the understanding
of what indigenous people have had to offer over the years and can still offer
Canadian society needs to be taught in all schools, including the public schools
of this country, so that there will be a basic understanding of who we are. That
is all of us, who Canadians are and who indigenous people are, and that will
allow for the foundation of mutual respect to start at a very early age.
Senator Enverga: So you believe that it should be a priority to be
able to understand each other?
Senator Sinclair: Education is the key to reconciliation — a
fundamental key. We will not change people who are set in their ways today, but
we will change the young people in their thinking about who each other is. When
little children play together in the schoolyard they have no sense of racism or
racist views or the wrongness of one another's cultures. They learn that from
the adults in their lives. If we can ensure that those little children are
taught about respect for each other and how to respect and what to respect about
each other, as they grow up they will be able to resist the racism that is in
the dominant society.
Senator Enverga: Thank you.
Senator Sinclair: You said that very well.
Ms. Young: Thank you.
Senator Raine: Thank you very much, and we do appreciate you being
here. I don't know if you're aware, but this committee studied Aboriginal
education K to 12 a few years back, and a lot of what we recommended in our
report reinforces what you're saying, and that is the need to really pay
attention to language training. In our travels as part of that committee study,
we went to a Cree community in northern Saskatchewan, in Onion Lake, and there
they had a Cree immersion school and an elementary English-speaking school in
the same community. It was a community of about 3,000 people.
They were finding a difficulty getting teachers, and they realized that if
they went to the mothers of the children, to the families who wanted their kids
to go into the immersion program, and if they could reach out to those mothers
as their youngest child was going off to school and train them in teaching, they
found a natural group of people who wanted to learn to teach.
The University of Saskatchewan worked with them on an educational training
program so they could take the courses in their home and go to the university
campus for some courses. They were having good success with that.
I know in Saskatchewan there's a better understanding that teaching Cree in
the schools was very important. It sounds like Manitoba is not quite there. I
know it might seem almost impossible but I'm sure it can be done, and I really
appreciate your drive to get it happening.
Ms. Young: Thank you for that information and the question. We do have
an immersion school at the Opaskwayak Cree Nation. I think it's up to Grade 6
now. When we started, we had elders who were coming and their job was to be
supportive, but they took their job too seriously and they took over. I think
there were a lot of bad feelings about that because the teachers were supposed
to be the ones teaching and the elders wanted to be the ones to be the teachers.
It straightened itself out, but what we were finding was that there was not a
lot of material. While they were developing the K to 6, the teachers also had to
develop their own material. I don't know if other schools experienced this but
we certainly did in ours: The dialect became the issue and not the Cree language
When people start talking about dialects, it becomes a real issue that you
have to take out of the school and into somewhere else because the kids get very
confused if they are going to learn one dialect and then a teacher comes in and
teaches them another dialect.
We have to look at what will we teach as Cree, not as Onion Lake dialect or
Opaskwayak Cree Nation dialect, because they are different, just like English
has different dialects. In England we can hardly understand them. It's worse in
the Scottish communities.
As we're going through this transition of teaching our various languages,
that's one of the things that we have to agree upon. We're going to teach Cree
and we're not going to be talking about dialects, but it will be somebody's
dialect, I'm sure, that we're going to agree to do.
There are a number of areas that are important and I think they're healthy,
because we need to go through that transition of sorting out where we're going
and agree to grow together on that.
The Onion Lake program sounds interesting. I think those who are teaching in
the program of where I come from looked all over to see what was happening in
the different communities. At that time they didn't find many programs that were
there, but that one sounds like an interesting program.
Senator Raine: To me the interesting thing that we saw at Onion Lake
was young mothers, after their children were school age, being very enthusiastic
to become Cree immersion teachers, and they were given the opportunity through
the University of Saskatchewan to train as a teacher in the Cree language.
The other thing I think we all found fantastic was some parents didn't want
their kids to go to the immersion school because they would be disadvantaged. In
reality, when the children went from I think Grade 5 or 6 into the middle
school, they were disadvantaged for the first year but then they caught up and
they had much more self-esteem. They knew who they were, they were well-grounded
and so it was impressive to see the success of those children, which reinforced
exactly what you said about how you need to know who you are to succeed.
Ms. Young: One of the things we found was that of the teachers in that
teacher training program, those who didn't have degrees and came from the
community, because they were interested in the Cree language, were the better
teachers. They didn't have all of those other notions of what a language should
look like or how you actually structure something. Those Cree teachers that
didn't go to university knew Cree, and they knew how to do it.
Senator Raine: And they were probably much more connected to the
spirituality and the land than the ones coming from the university?
Ms. Young: Having a Western education has its advantages, but then it
has its disadvantages as well, and that's one of them.
Senator Raine: One more question, if you don't mind, for Mr. John
Morrisseau. One of the things we learned during the study we did was that there
are a lot of places where the curriculum in the Northern communities, for
example, remote communities, was not related at all to what they really needed
to learn, and so some schools were taking advantage of the knowledge of the
elders and bringing that into the curriculum to make it part of and to give
credit to the young people, especially the high school students, who were
learning those skills, like hunting, fishing and trapping, and those skills that
are needed when you want to live near nature.
Is that happening in the North in Manitoba?
Mr. Morrisseau: It's happening in the North, but it's not happening in
the southern part of the province. Of course, it's not happening there because
the resources are not there to do it. Trapping is now being taken away because
of landholders. Even in northern Manitoba, with all the hydro development
projects, a lot of the fur has now disappeared.
So we don't have that same opportunity as we did earlier. We used to have
government ranches that ran. One of the biggest government ranches in northern
Manitoba was at what we call the Summerberry, which produced a lot of fur.
Manitoba Hydro moved in and it's no longer there, and there's no fur to be found
It's kind of interesting you say that. I don't want to get into that, but
some of the work I'm doing right now is working with trappers and fishers from
Doris's community. One of the things is that they've lost their right to trap
and fish because of the destruction of that particular part of their resource
It's interesting to talk to the older people who want to go out — part of
what Doris is talking about, with the language and so on — to take their
children out and show them how they lived, but the area is not there anymore.
It's also interesting to note that a lot of the trapping that is going on,
particularly in northern Manitoba — and I'm not sure about other areas, but I
know in northern Manitoba — a lot of it is just people who work full time and go
out on the weekends to set a few traps, and it's just like side money or pocket
money. So it's not an industry like we used to understand it. It's just not
there because the resources, the fur is not there. It's just not there anymore.
That's all it is.
Senator Brazeau: Welcome. Thank you for being here and for sharing
your experiences with us this evening. I know it is not easy for you as a
survivor of the Indian residential schools and that it takes a lot of courage.
As a still fairly young Algonquin person, I had, I guess, the privilege of
not attending residential schools. Instead, I went to a school where we were
able to speak our language and able to play sports. We had the privilege of not
having religious types as teachers. We actually had teachers who had in their
best interests the students and the kids.
Fortunately, when I was going to that school, I was able to wake up with my
parents and be with my parents once school ended, which was not the case with
Indian residential schools. Unfortunately, there are still people in this
country who believe that residential schools were a good thing, were positive.
I would like to know what your thoughts are and what you would recommend to
those people who thought that residential schools were a good thing. We all know
that young children were taken away from their parents, were not able to speak
their language. If they had long hair, they had their hair cut. Kids were
physically, mentally and sexually abused.
Like I said, there are still people who think that was a good thing. There's
only one good thing about Indian residential schools, in my view, and that is
that they no longer exist, and hopefully they will never exist again in this
What would you say to those people who still have that frame of mind, those
thoughts? Perhaps they believe they have freedom of expression in this country,
but I think it's more freedom of ignorance. I'd like to hear your thoughts.
Ms. Young: Because I was the one, of the two of us, who went to
residential school, I'll attempt to answer that.
I went to residential school for 13 years, and there are times when I can
talk about it and not have a tear. Tonight, I had no idea this was going to
happen. It comes and goes, and it's like an emotion that you cannot control.
Sometimes I think about the losses that I had, and the fears and the
experiences; the bad ones that I had at the schools will be with me forever. No
one will ever be able to take them away from my body, from my mind, from my
soul. I can deal with them most of the time, but there are times when it's just
not possible, like it was tonight.
Anyone who has been taken away from their mother and father and their
community, like we were, forcibly, and punished for being who we are, for
speaking a language, for having long hair, because we were Cree, cannot imagine
what it's like to be punished because you're Ukrainian in Canada, because you're
another nationality. It's just an awful lifelong struggle to deal with those
When I said I was suicidal, there are many, many people who are still like
that. I'm not suicidal anymore, but suicide is a very uninvited feeling. You
don't know when it's going to happen. It happens. You look at windows, you look
at fast-moving cars, and you don't know why, but deep down it's that suicidal
To the people that don't understand what we went through, and not to get an
education: It was a policy that our parents had no control over. The law said we
had to go, and they took us. Our mother and father didn't say, "Yes, go. I'd
like you to.'' No, they didn't say that. They came and they took us. Just like
what the TRC report says: They came and they took us away.
All the people across Canada — there are thousands of us — our communities
are in shattered forms of trying to regain dignity and identity. We're
struggling. We still are. Some of us went to university. That doesn't matter. We
still have those memories of what happened to us in those schools.
There cannot be only one answer to that. There are many facets of it. The
suicides in our communities are bearing that out. I just feel so bad for our
children when they are committing suicide the way that they are. We have some
knowledge of why they're doing it, but we don't have all the answers to
prevention for it.
Mr. Morrisseau: I didn't go to residential school, but I had the good
fortune of sitting on the advisory committee. It was a tremendous awakening for
me because of one of the things that happened. As a young boy growing up, we
lived adjacent to the reserve. Crane River was split by a river, and it wasn't a
wide river, but one of the things that came back to me was that going through
all that information and listening to all the stories and testimony that was
given, I started to realize why I didn't know the people I grew up with.
I wondered why. Men and women my age, I didn't know them. And over the years,
as I grew up and moved away and went away from my community, I didn't even know
they belonged there. And when you went back and asked, "Where have you been?''
they took me away. They took me to school. A lot of those young people would
never ever talk about what happened. A lot of those young people ended up in
sanatoriums with tuberculosis. I'm not saying it was part of the residential
schools, but they were gone. It was really quite interesting.
The other part, I guess, for people who don't know what has happened, is
there has been a lot of documentation by the Truth and Reconciliation
Commission, a lot of testimony and a lot of information available. If people
want to educate themselves to what really went on in Canada with the residential
schools, I think they can find all that information already written, and it's
Senator Brazeau: Thank you both for your responses. Be proud of who
you are. I am proud of who you are.
You talked, Ms. Young, about suicide. I know a little bit about that. Thank
you for still being here with us today.
Senator Pate: Thank you to both of you, Ms. Young and Mr. Morrisseau,
and Senator Sinclair, for being with us as well.
I'm very grateful for your wisdom and the opportunity and the honour to be
able to listen and learn from both of you.
One of the suggestions that has been made from time to time in this
committee, but also in other parts of the country and in other arenas, is that
we need to revisit what's already been documented in the Truth and
Reconciliation Commission and that there are other stories that need to be told.
I have my own view on that but I would like to hear your view, from both of
you, on that.
Ms. Young: Should we be asking other children or adults now, that have
gone to day schools, for instance? I think they should be given the opportunity
to tell Canada what has happened.
Senator Pate: Is there any information missing in terms of
recommendations or calls to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
from your perspective?
Ms. Young: I don't think it's so much the missing information as the
opportunity for those students to express what happened to them, and to be able
to tell Canada their story as well. It's not so much about whether it is the
same; it probably will be the same as the TRC's recommendations, but there might
be other things that would come out of that.
I went to a day school for a couple of years, and that experience was
terrible as well. We had this teacher who chased us around like he was a lion.
He pretended he was a lion. We didn't even know what a lion was. He chased the
kids around the school, in the classroom, and he was just a horrible man.
Those are the kinds of things that people don't understand of the day school
experiences. Growing up and having an education, as an Aboriginal person in
Canada, is not the same kind of experience as other people have. It's not.
Does that answer your question?
Senator Pate: In part. I worry, so I'll express my worrying. I'll take
your advice on this. I worry that we have enough information that we need to
move forward and act, and I hope there are other ways that people can come
forward and contribute to the education of all of us as treaty people in this
I worry about calls for more people to be heard as a way to delay that action
if I'm too impatient, because many elders have told me I'm too impatient. I
appreciate you telling me that.
Mr. Morrisseau: I think on that note, if I could respond, I have
similar feelings to yours. But I think that in order for us to catch up, we need
to have some support. That's why I made the recommendation to help find a way
for Metis children to go ahead and get that education, to help find a way to
start bettering those schools at the community level.
It's kind of sad to say, but a lot of our teachers are just permit teachers
past Grade 12. They're not real teachers, they don't come with a plan, and my
children attended some of those schools. Fortunately for us, we were able to
move them away from them. But not everyone has had that ability or that
To me I say that's an investment for our people, and that's what we've got to
look at. Because just having talks and hearings and not doing anything about it
is not going to be the answer for us. We need to have something that would help
us get that education.
Ms. Young: Back home, there is this one person, an elder, that is
saying what you're saying, that we have to move on. Maybe we do. But seven years
of hearings about what we went through — and now we have to move forward — is
not a long time. Seven years is not a long time. I know people don't like to
hear what has happened to the Aboriginal people. It hurts all of us to hear
that, the stories that Canada had, and how it impacted us as children. Seven
years is not a long time.
I think Senator Sinclair has said this as well: In our lifetime, I don't
think we're going to find all the answers and maybe not even in our children's
lifetimes, but maybe in our grandchildren's.
If day school children or adults need to talk about what their experiences
were, I think there might be a chance for them to be able to express themselves
in some way and not say we should move on. I think that hurts people, when they
don't have the opportunity to speak.
We've opened the door to listen and to hear what those stories were and now
we want to say we have to move on. It's really not fair.
So I don't know what the answer is, because Canada is a nation in which we're
all working together to move forward, but not everyone can move at the same
pace. I guess that's the bottom line of it.
Senator Pate: I hadn't thought of it the way you expressed it. Because
I was asking "do we need to do that before we can move on the TRC calls to
action'' but I didn't say it that clearly. So I appreciate your input.
Are there ways, do you think, that we can start to move on the calls to
action and still provide opportunities for people to be heard who haven't been
Ms. Young: I can talk about the calls to action, because we are
working on them in my community, anyway, and at the university where I work. All
across Canada institutions, organizations and communities, there's a tremendous
amount of movement that's going on. It's maybe not as fast as we'd like it, but
The tremendous amount of work that Senator Sinclair and the other two
commissioners did is a phenomenal amount of information that we've received. As
Canadians, we need to always be mindful of that. Because it's all our history —
all of us.
So should we be working with the day schools? I think they are the ones that
need to answer some of those questions.
Senator Beyak: Thank you for your very moving and heart-touching
testimonials, and also for your recommendations, Doris, around the Cree
language. And thank you for being here again, John, and for the recommendations
The speech that caused so much hurt and distress was actually a speech about
taxes. My mission here in the Senate is the wise use of tax dollars, and I was
questioning why we were renaming buildings all across Canada when a teenage
Aboriginal child on a reserve in Canada has never had a glass of clean water, as
you pointed out, Doris. It seemed like our priorities are skewed.
So I asked for a national audit of all dollars coming in and out of every
reserve, and I asked for a national referendum of every individual Metis, Inuit
and Aboriginal across Canada over the age of 12 as to what their dreams and
goals are, where they want to live and what they would tell the government to do
with the tax dollars? That's instead of wasting the billions that we have wasted
over decades, and still you have no education in Crane River and you have no
language teachers in Le Pas. I want to do something differently so that your
grandchildren have a better life and the grandchildren in my riding have a
better life than what we've been doing. It's not working, and I wondered if you
would have some thoughts on that.
Mr. Morrisseau: Sorry about that, but sometimes those hearing aids
don't work that well. I have to get Doris to relay the question to me.
Having a different system most likely will cause a reaction of the various
treatments that people receive. That is what happens to a lot of our people when
you get things from the government. Because you're a certain group, people react
differently. In the communities, when you are doing that, you get feedback that
is not always pleasant in that respect.
I'm not sure at this point whether sharing that would be an answer. I think
that doing it because it's needed — in my little community of Crane River, we
have non-Aboriginal children attending as well. So if you just did that for the
Metis children that go to school, then we're putting people in blocs. I don't
think that's the answer to those questions.
I'm not sure if I've answered your question, but that's just my own personal
view on that.
Ms. Young: I'm not sure how to respond. When a different kind of
system is being contemplated about fixing something that's so large right now —
to try something different like talking about tax dollars, I don't know.
We had the premier come to our community one afternoon, and he stood there
and said, "This building that we're in,'' which was the University College of
the North, "was built on our tax dollars'' and he looked straight at all the
First Nations people. We just froze. We thought, "Is he telling us that we don't
pay tax? Or is he punishing us because some of us don't always pay tax?''
When you start talking about tax dollars, it puts up some real walls. There
might be another avenue that could be explored — maybe not the same way but not
talking about tax dollars.
Senator Oh: I had the honour of watching your video clip earlier,
Doris. I was watching that video clip about residential schools this afternoon,
and it was very touching. I was watching you and looking at your parents. When
the train moved off they were crying at the station. It was very touching.
I think Canada owes you and your people big time. We are in a country of
human rights. We champion human rights all over the world, but it's sad to know
that our own "backyard'' is a mess. We spend millions and millions of dollars
around the world helping people actually not living in worse conditions than
yours. We brought people here, we brought refugees here and looked after them
and fed them. They have lost their world. I think we have to do something about
our own people back home. That is key number one.
If the Senate committee could help you, what is your first priority that you
would want us to do?
Ms. Young: My number one priority that I talked about, and it's the
value that we really attach our whole life to, is the land and what it means to
us, and how our languages and our life supports that. Without that, we are just
not the same kind of people.
For me, I would say that the values be respectfully acknowledged and included
in the Senate's analysis of government policy and programs, in particular the
world view of Aboriginal peoples on that land. Because when you start looking at
it that way, you come up with a whole different set of possibilities of doing
things differently, not the same old way of top-down ideas on what might work
for us. They don't work that way. If people would come and ask us what we need,
we need more schools, we need more teachers; we have said that. We are still not
getting them. John doesn't have a school in his community. We need the teachers.
We really need the teacher training programs.
Senator Oh: So there is no teacher training college for your people?
Ms. Young: We have one program that teaches teachers to teach Cree,
and all those teachers teach in Cree. It's a total immersion program, and it
works really, really well. Those teachers come out knowing how to teach, and
they get scooped up. I think we've had 25 teachers in five years, so that means
five teachers a year, which is not lots.
Senator Oh: Okay, thank you for your answer. Is there anything for you
Mr. Morrisseau: I just wanted to respond by saying a number of years
ago in Manitoba they started programs to train Aboriginal people to be teachers,
nurses, a number of different things like that. What happened is that I recall
the one community, the Metis community who sent about 14 students to become
teachers, and they all got their degrees and they were all ready to go to work,
and nobody would hire them. Still to this day some of them are at home, never
got a job.
I think we have to deal with that attitudinal problem that's there, and
sometimes the attitudinal problem is not only outside of our community, it's
inside as well. I believe that the way we were brought up, the way we were
raised is that the guy from the outside always knew better than us, and somehow
or another we have to be able to change those attitudes. That's something that
we have to work on, but when others from the outside continuously push it down,
it's not helping either, so there's an issue there. It's an attitudinal thing, I
think, for us.
Senator Oh: I'm sure the Canadian government can do this. They have
the right, they have the power and they have the obligation to do it for you.
Senator Boniface: First of all, I would like to thank you both very
much for being here and sharing your life in terms of your life experience. I
think it's very helpful to the committee. And particularly to Ms. Young, I want
to say thank you for bringing back some memories for me.
I did a lot of work in northwestern Ontario, and I heard some of the people
up there say the same reflection, view of the attachment to the land, and I
think I had lost that memory until you brought it up, and so thank you for
reminding me of that experience.
I'm wondering, in particular in reference to the last comments that you made,
whether at a grassroots level, community to community, and so I mean the
communities near you or particularly in your experience, John, with the Metis
nation, if you experienced communities who had a better understanding of the
experience of residential schools at the grassroots level?
So I, for instance, grew up near the Chippewas of Georgina Island, and I had
no understanding at all. I think there's a better understanding today because of
the interaction between the two communities and some common interests that they
have done. I could be wrong, but I think that's better. I'm just wondering, as
we move forward, if there's some sort of grassroots initiatives that would also
help bring some of this together in terms of better common understanding.
Mr. Morrisseau: There have been a number of Metis students who
attended residential schools, and there have been a number of them who have also
made their testimony about residential schools, but a lot of them didn't go.
They were considered fillers because when the schools didn't have enough
students from the First Nations and had room, they would go to the Metis
community in order to fill the school. That's how they got there.
A lot of those students who had been to residential school are still sitting
on their stories, and some that I know personally are saying they've never had
an opportunity to tell my story. Some of them are taking the position that they
would like to write it, but then where do they send it and what are they doing
There's a lot of that kind of discussion that's there, so it may be helpful,
but basically the stories from the Metis side of it, from residential schools,
will be very similar to the treaty side, First Nations that went. They all
experienced basically the same thing.
Ms. Young: What was the question?
Senator Boniface: It probably wasn't very articulate. I'm trying to
figure out, as we do the nation-to-nation and building and understanding at the
macro level, are there initiatives between native and non-native communities,
First Nation and non-First Nation communities, where there are bridges being
built out of a level of understanding and moving forward? So I'm trying to
figure out if there's anywhere that you know of or any experience you have that
would be helpful to us at the very local level.
Ms. Young: Back home there was an interesting event that took place by
high school students. The Opaskwayak Cree Nation is on one side of the river and
the town of The Pas is on the other. These high school students — and nobody
said "do this, do that'' to them — created an initiative that was really
important. They one day decided that they would meet in the middle of that
bridge and shake hands and say, "We are going to be friends.'' It was a
One of the teachers from the Opaskwayak Cree Nation brought out this treaty
medal where they are shaking hands, the commissioner and the Aboriginal people,
and she showed those students this treaty medal where they were shaking hands in
the middle of this bridge. So that's one initiative.
The Pas, as you know, has not always had a good reputation, the town of The
Pas. So the children are starting some kind of movement that is really exciting,
is really important. At my school, because we're looking at TRC and where do we
start, what we decided to do was that we would work with principles and
processes on how we want to work together to implement the TRC recommendations
that applied to university. So we set out principles of partnership,
collaboration. I forget what. There was about five of them that we agreed as an
institution that we would work with when we're working with the reconciliation
process, and the process has kind of followed each of those areas. One of the
processes that we agreed on was that we would identify when we're talking about
reconciliation and where we're going with a particular program. We would say,
"This is where I'm coming from. As an Aboriginal person who has gone to
residential school, this is where I'm coming from.'' A non-native person got up
and said, "Because I never knew about residential schools.'' I feel she felt
intimidated and guilty, so that's where she was coming from.
We said instead of looking at programs first, we wanted to do principles and
processes about how we were going to work together.
Senator Boniface: I like that.
Ms. Young: It's just this year that we started that. We didn't jump
into programs, although we do have them, but we took a step back and said let's
look at this. I think feelings are really important.
Senator Boniface: Absolutely.
Ms. Young: To acknowledge them.
Senator Boniface: Thank you.
Senator Watt: Thank you for your presentation. I enjoyed what you had
to say. I'm also one of the original persons from the North — Inuk, that is — a
residential school survivor. We all had different experiences during our younger
years. Some are happy ones, some are very ugly ones, and I share your view in
terms of describing what happens within our people — the First Nation, Metis and
By saying that, I have some questions, and I also would like a clarification
in regard to the area that you seem to be focusing more on than the others, that
is school. You need teachers, you need money to run the school, and you also
mentioned the importance of the land that is connected to your spirituality,
which I do understand, and I feel that the problems that you are running through
on who owns the land, and I share the view with you. I hope the Government of
Canada at some point down the road will come to realize that they cannot
continue to operate on the fee simple rights related to the land. It has to be
more than that.
It surprised me, in a sense, what I heard from the Metis representative, John
Morrisseau, that you are leasing the land. In other words, when you are leasing
the lands, and I guess that costs money, and I don't know where you're getting
the money from in order to pay the rent.
By saying that, I would like to switch over to the question of school, which
seems to be very important to you both. I would also like to get clarification
with regard to schooling. I'm a little confused by what I'm hearing from you
both. I'm not sure whether you are talking about language of instruction only in
your mother tongue, or are you also talking about integrating into the language
of instruction a curriculum, which I believe you also need, to be able to learn
English and probably French, and at the same time you want to protect your
language and you have to do whatever you can to make sure that survives.
Am I hearing you properly? I'm not quite sure whether you are mainly talking
about wanting to have your own mother tongue to be introduced as a language of
instruction in the school. I believe, if I'm not mistaken, that school boards
are not necessarily within your control. There might be no school board in some
I would like an explanation in those areas if this committee is going to come
up with some recommendations on the basis of what you have been talking about.
I'm trying to clarify in my own mind, but at the same time I'm trying to help
the rest of the senators so they don't understand differently. We all need to
understand in the same way.
Ms. Young: In my community, we have an immersion program from
kindergarten to Grade 6 now, and what we're finding with those children is that
not everybody is in that immersion program. There are some that are just in the
English program. But the children who are in the immersion program we're finding
they are better behaved, they learn quicker, they don't get into trouble the way
that other children do. I don't know if the right word is "quiet,'' but they are
more attentive to what they are supposed to be doing.
For me, it's really important if our whole community became Cree speaking,
because they will always have the English language. You can't get away from
that. When they go to university, they are bilingual. They are Cree and English,
and they'll do well at university. It's been proven that children who have an
Aboriginal language do better when they go to university because they feel good
about themselves. They are confident that they're Aboriginal and they know their
language. It grounds them.
I don't know if that answers it. For me, it would be really good if we did
have a total immersion Cree high school and K to 8. That's my feeling.
Senator Watt: I think you understood what I had to say, and I share
the view with you that regardless of what we do in our own mother tongue, and
that's the most important part of our success for the generations to come. They
need a strong foundation, so I'm with you.
Forty years ago we, as an Inuit from Nunavik, entered into legal action
against the Government of Quebec, Hydro- Québec energy cooperation, and we were
able to bring the Government of Canada to the table, which in a sense knowing a
little about the law, they could have negotiated on our behalf, but they were on
the side — well, we were negotiating. We did direct negotiations with the
Government of Quebec and a representative from the Hydro-Québec energy
development corporation. At the time, I used to wonder whether some of those
development corporations, on the economic side, and 40 years ago they were
practically running the Government of Quebec.
To tell you the truth, when I entered into the first day of negotiations, I
found out the Government of Quebec only had four environmental experts within
their department. That's how far behind they were in terms of dealing with the
question of the environment. Then we put ourselves in the position to indicate
to the Government of Quebec that the government has to be able to listen to us
and learn something from us, and I think they did.
What I wanted to say, because I don't want to go on, we have control of our
own school board, 100 per cent, separate from the Government of Quebec. The
Minister of Education has no disallowing power in terms of the language of
instruction. That is very important. If you're talking about survival of your
language, then it would be under your control. I think you should examine that.
Before we entered into creating the various instruments that we have now with
the Government of Quebec, we have control of our own health sector. We have our
own regional government. We have control of our own police. Those things can
take place, but you have to remember that if you're going to be entering into a
negotiation with the Government of Canada, there are the two jurisdictional
matters that are very important to this country. One is the federal government
jurisdiction and the other is a provincial jurisdiction.
We have to do what we can as Aboriginal people in this country to buy in to
some of those jurisdictions that we might think are important to us. You can
only find out whether you will succeed by being in those negotiations. At times
maybe you even have to go back to the court to deal with those fundamental
issues, if you cannot succeed by achieving them through negotiation.
I am just giving you sort of a heads-up in that area now, but that I think is
a bit of the confusion I had in terms of whether I fully understood when you
were talking about the schools. I think I do understand that now. You have to
start somewhere. That's important.
The Chair: Senator Watt, you had one other question regarding land. I
think it was a question for Mr. Morrisseau.
Senator Watt: Since I just sort of highlighted, mentioned it, but I
don't have the whole solution to deal with the question of land.
The Chair: If you don't mind my saying, I think you were asking Mr.
Morrisseau how they did their land and leasing and where they got the money. I
could have misunderstood your question.
Senator Watt: I'm not quite there, so maybe he can remind me.
Mr. Morrisseau: For my point, I thought it would just clarify that
land is costly. We pay taxes, and of course land is costly to keep for us. When
you don't have any revenue generating, like cattle or whatever, and trying to
hold on to land, it becomes next to impossible. That's why we get the dwindling
— at one time, like I said, we had 12 ranchers in our area and now we're down to
one. Everybody just slowly gets pushed out.
Senator Watt: Let me try to respond to that by trying to be helpful in
terms of finding the solution to the problems that you are highlighting here.
I see sort of an end result of where you are right now. That means to say
that you're going to be running out of your own people before you have a chance
to resolve the question of land. How can you expedite that matter? Do you have
some of your people taking legal action specifically on land issues? I know that
the ruling recently came down from the Supreme Court of Canada with regard to
the Metis being allowed to participate or being treated the same way as First
Nations. Do you have anything aside from that that could help you to deal with
the question of land?
Mr. Morrisseau: I think we're probably a bit late in relation to a
legal approach to the keeping of the land. In our little community, the land is
owned by outsiders.
Senator Watt: Third party ownership.
Mr. Morrisseau: Yes. Even at that, our community suffers in a sense of
getting any of that revenue back from the use of that land because it goes back
to the province or back to the municipality of where they come from. Our
community suffers for that, so our land is slowly disappearing, and it's going
to outsiders. And the taxes that should be coming back to help us grow as a
community is not there. I think if you relate that back to schools and having a
small school with Grade 8 and a couple of teachers that are permanent, it tells
you the story of just how they are squeezing it out. The nearest school for
Crane River, if our children were to go to school, is 25 miles one way, so it's
not something that you want to do.
Senator Watt: When you are asked to move, whatever the property,
whatever the asset that you might have, relocate yourself to another location
because that area that you are occupying is needed by somebody else — maybe they
have more money than you, whatever that reason might be — what recourse do you
have? What does the system say to you? Or do we have no system at all to deal
with something like if a person is being asked to leave the area, where do you
go? What's your recourse? You can't just turn around and say that I am leaving
because it's not my land. It is in a sense your land, but how do you go about
Mr. Morrisseau: That's a very difficult question because the land is
owned by the Province of Manitoba. The land that has always been part of our
community is what we call provincial Crown land. When it's provincial Crown
land, the way that land is handed out is they have a policy within agriculture,
for example, that says you have to have X number of animals, et cetera, that you
need to grow. Not having those, because it's agricultural Crown land that we're
talking about, and that was the only form of revenue that we had in that
community, we don't have that anymore, so our opportunity to come back is not
there. It's just slowly eroded.
Senator Watt: Madam Chair, I wonder whether this committee could
invite somebody who could be able to explain to us from a legal point of view
what can be done in the case of the experience that he is having. This will
continue on unless somebody moves in and tries to prevent it from continuing to
happen. I would recommend that; this is a very important issue.
The Chair: This is something you —
Senator Watt: They have no home. They have no land. Come on, this is
The Chair: This is something that you could recommend, and the
steering committee could discuss and decide whether we need to call another
witness. The analysts will take note of that.
Senator Watt: If you don't mind me saying so, I think this requires
action, almost immediate action. This is important. This is a day-to-day problem
they are going through.
The Chair: Yes.
Senator Watt: We can't leave it alone.
The Chair: Yes. Thank you for your intervention, Senator Watt.
Senator Pate: Madam Chair, I'm just wondering, my question was related
to some of that. I'll make it very short.
The Chair: Okay.
Senator Pate: That guy sitting to your left, that smart guy at the
table — Mr. Morrisseau, I'm talking about Senator Sinclair — at a previous
hearing, and I can't remember which witness it was, asked a question that has
intrigued me ever since, which is about the model that's used for municipalities
for governance for indigenous land issues. The City of Ottawa doesn't own all
the land here but they govern it. Is that an option that you would be interested
in pursuing or having the committee look at and make recommendations?
Mr. Morrisseau: We have a different system in Manitoba. We don't have
a municipality, per se. What we have is the department of northern affairs,
which is the owner of all the land, and they have veto power over our council. A
lot of those decisions you talk about are made other places. Crown land is
something that the department of northern affairs does not want to control.
We're having difficulties in setting a boundary. If we had a boundary of areas
then that land would remain only for the community of Crane River. But the
boundary is only for the town site, so it really eliminates us going outside of
Senator Pate: Thank you.
The Chair: We have two more questioners for round one. We are at the
end of our time, but if it's okay, we will proceed.
Senator Christmas: Thank you. I really don't have a question. I just
wanted to express my gratitude and appreciation to both of you for being here
this evening. I'm probably the newest senator here; I haven't been here too
long. Over the last several months, we have heard from different people, but I
think this is the first occasion where we have heard from Aboriginal voices
directly. I just wanted to say how your words and your wisdom have left a
profound impact on me. This evening was a real education for me. I'm a Mi'kmaq
person from the East Coast, from Nova Scotia, and I want to thank you for
sharing your stories and your experience.
I think it's extremely valuable, the knowledge that you've shared and have
brought to us this evening. I realize that it's not easy sometimes to come
before a group like this, but I can see in both of you that you have a lot of
strength and courage and a real desire to share your story. I think you're
aiming this story for your grandchildren, so I can appreciate that.
I wanted to say thank you. I'm very grateful that you've been here this
evening. I really appreciate both of you being here and your presence.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator McPhedran: I want to echo the appreciation that Senator
Christmas has expressed. I need to go a bit further than that. I need to say to
you how deeply sorry I am for the hurt not only of what was caused to you as
children but more recently what has been caused to many survivors of residential
schools in this country from words spoken by my colleague here on the committee
and the struggle that we are having to find appropriate responses and actions.
I hope you can accept my heartfelt apology for the limitations that we're
struggling with here and how much we deeply appreciate your being here and
sharing with us.
I have a question. It is related to how powerfully woven into everything that
we're talking about, the challenge and the opportunity of education. Could you
share something that has worked, that you've seen has worked and whether we can
be building on that?
I don't want to limit my question only to publicly-funded or INAC
federally-funded education, but education more broadly and what vision you would
have for really making a difference to education.
Ms. Young: For me, the one program that has worked back home is taking
those children out on the land. At the University College of the North we take
the instructors — and they all have to do this — out on the land for three days,
once in the fall and once in the spring, and they're out there for three days.
They learn about the land, about medicines, about our stories, and our
relation to the land and what that means. They learn about residential schools
because I tell them about my experiences at residential school.
These are teachers, professors that I have worked with for 20 years, and
they've never really heard those stories or been out on the land. It's really
because of the TRC's recommendations that they do come out on the land and why
the president said everyone has to do that.
He's made it compulsory, and it works because of that. If he said, "You don't
have to come, it's optional,'' 10 per cent would come out, but they would be the
ones that you didn't have to convince about anything anyway. This way, it works,
going out on the land and bringing the teachers and bringing the students.
In Thompson, the teachers that are in a teacher training program, we call it
Kenanow, meaning all of us, they bring the students from the Wapanohk School
division, and those children come out and those teachers arrange for elders to
come out and teach those children. That's their project as teachers that are
going to be teachers. They are students that are going to be teachers. Everyone
is learning, those students and the students that they're bringing out. They
come out from grade 1 to grade 12, and they take turns coming out. I think it's
all week. So the students are coming different days.
That works because they start learning about the land. They start learning
about teachings from our elders. All the children, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal
children, go home happy. They look like they're different children when they go
home from when they came in the morning, because those children don't always
want to come out on the land either. That's the healing process of being on the
land, and we've learned that from experience.
Aboriginal people know that, but non-Aboriginal people don't know that,
always. But those children do and our instructors, the ones that I work with,
start to get that feeling of what it's like to be on the land and why it's so
healing. Because the water is there and the land is there, so that works.
Senator Pate: Is there a recommendation for mandatory training for all
Mr. Morrisseau: Someone has said that it happened, that we grew up
sort of away from the reserve, outside of the traditional gatherings and smudges
and sun dances and so on. But after I got involved with the TRC and all of the
information that I kept bringing home and talking about, it's interesting to
note that my sons have taken a very strong interest in the culture. That is
something they're learning as they go through. They go to sun dances, and this
has been five, six years and some of them have completed their four years of
dancing and so on.
What is happening back in the community is we have cultural camps for the
young children to learn more about their traditional ways. Two of the teachers
that come every year to help are my sons. I feel gratified being able to pass
that information on and seeing them actually taking it in too.
Senator Tannas: I just wanted to say thank you. I didn't ask a
question, which I'm sure all my colleagues would tell you is rare. I'm humbled
and honoured that you would come before us and share your stories. I want to say
thank you and that it's made a big difference, as Senator Christmas said, for me
personally and for our work. Thank you.
Senator Watt: I'd like to say one thing, which is an encouragement. I
know that you are finding what you are going through very difficult, and I share
the concerns that you have.
By saying so, there is always a hope. There will be hope. One of the things I
wanted to mention to you that will give you some hope is that when the
government decides to move forward, they can do that very quickly. I'm counting
on my colleague Senator Sinclair. I think he is the one who will make that
machinery move forward.
Anyway, have hopes and expectations.
The Chair: As the chair of the committee, it's my great pleasure to
thank Mr. Morrisseau and Ms. Young for being here today and to Senator Sinclair
for offering to sit by them and offer them support.
The other senators have thanked you from the bottom of their hearts. As I
said before, we are honoured that you have agreed to come before us. You
certainly do personify people of dignity and people who have reclaimed their
Senator Sinclair: I wonder if you might allow me a few minutes to
address my colleagues and friends and thank them very much for agreeing to come
forward and also my apology to them for the fact that it's now 9:10 and I told
them they would be out of here by 8:30. Therefore, I thank all of my colleagues,
the senators in here on the committee, for proving me to be a liar to them. I
want to thank as well all of my colleagues here for the questions and the gentle
way you spoke with them.
I particularly want to thank Senator Beyak for clarifying that her speech was
really only about taxes and that therefore nothing else was to be taken
seriously. So keeping that in mind, I'm going to send you copies of the Auditor
General's reports for the last several years in which every Auditor General for
many years has pointed out that indigenous people in this country have been the
most audited people of any government program anywhere in the country, and
therefore, auditing them any further is not necessary. They have to account for
their money more than anything.
The education component that my colleagues have talked about as being very
important is something that we'll keep in mind as we go forward as a committee,
Thank you all for your cooperation and collaboration in order to make this
Thank you, Doris, and thank you, John.
The Chair: There's not much more that I can say — thank you, Senator
(The committee adjourned.)