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SENATORS’ STATEMENTS — Indigenous Leadership

Expression of Thanks

June 29, 2021

Honourable senators, before we rise for the summer, I want to express appreciation and gratitude to the individuals who work to support us in our offices and the chamber, in committees and, in particular, since the onset of this pandemic, online.

To all of you who work in chamber operations and committees, information services, communications, translation, protective services, the Library of Parliament, property and services, the Black Rod’s office and the page team, thank you to each and every one of you for all you are and all you do to support us and keep the Senate running, particularly during these challenging times.

I also want to thank the inspirational young Indigenous leaders from throughout Turtle Island who met with the Aboriginal Peoples Committee yesterday in a virtual round table marking National Indigenous History Month.

I started yesterday morning at an observance at 5 a.m. for the young people whom Senator McCallum just spoke about. I was honoured and humbled to meet Sarah Hanson, Crystal Martin-Lapenskie, Shaun McLeod, Sabrina Ricker and Brett Sparrow, who spoke to us about their experiences, their work in pursuit of justice and equality, and challenged us to work collaboratively to further their identified priorities for the Senate.

They included the ongoing legacies of residential schools, including ongoing assimilation through the foster care system and challenges of finding a community of support; the over-representation of Indigenous peoples both as victims of crime and as prisoners as a result of colonialism and discrimination, as well as the importance of drug decriminalization and record expungement as part of redressing long-standing injustices; the pandemic of racism and inadequate care within the health care system; and the need for adequate and accessible cultural, personal and funding support for Indigenous youth to pursue careers as health care providers; and the imperative of dismantling discriminatory systems that require people to leave their communities to receive basic care and ensure access to socio-economic equity, particularly for those in the North.

These inspirational youth reminded us that redressing Canada’s history of colonialism requires decolonizing — not merely Indigenizing — systems and processes. They rightly demand equality and they deserve it now.

Honourable colleagues, let us do our part to realize the aspirations and expectations of these amazing Indigenous leaders. Meegwetch. Thank you.

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