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Indigenous perspectives on Canada Day
June 29, 2021

Indigenous senators share their perspectives on Canada Day.

Senator Brian Francis
Senator Brian Francis

Truths must be universally known and accepted 

Canada Day has long been a symbol of national pride and unity. However, the remains of hundreds of children at the site of former residential institutions, with many more to be found, have brought to light the violence that has been inflicted on generations of Indigenous people. These discoveries are horrifying and heartbreaking, but not shocking. There is a well-documented history of dispossession, assimilation and genocide, which is part of the foundation of this country and continues to affect our lives today. If progress towards true and lasting reconciliation is going to happen within our lifetimes, these truths must be universally known and accepted. 

In this time of immense grief and pain, it is unthinkable to celebrate as if nothing has happened. The past weeks have prompted a collective reckoning that we hope will result in tangible actions and outcomes at all levels. This year, July 1 should be a time to pause and reflect on where we have been and where we are headed. My family and I will spend the day in nature engaging in prayer and ceremony to soothe our heavy hearts and souls, as well as to honour all the lives lost and those impacted by the violent and coercive actions of the state. We will recommit ourselves to building a better future for our children and grandchildren — one we can all be proud of.

Senator Brian Francis is Mi’kmaq from Epekwitk (also known as Prince Edward Island).

Senator Marty Klyne
Senator Marty Klyne

A nation of nations

My Canada is a nation of nations, where children from all backgrounds can build a brighter future together, fulfilling the promise of reconciliation. I believe this country is now on a path where Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth will learn about Canada’s true past, as well as the richness of Indigenous nations’ histories and cultures.

This Canada Day will be sombre and reflective in many ways, with Canadians realizing the weight of history. However, this is also a time for hope and excitement, particularly for the younger generations as much progress has been made towards reconciliation this year.

On this Canada Day, I can envision a day when Indigenous and non-Indigenous children play and learn together and come to understand, accept and respect people from different cultural backgrounds. This progress on reconciliation will pave the way towards the day when our youth lead this federation to realize its full potential.

Senator Marty Klyne represents Saskatchewan in the Senate.

Senator Mary Jane McCallum
Senator Mary Jane McCallum

Truth that reverberates throughout the world

Oh Canada,

A long time ago, before the residential schools issue
came up, an Elder told me to go back to my community
because there is a sleeping giant and I had to go and
wake it up, gently.  I thought he meant the Elders, but
when the residential schools came up, I knew what he
was talking about. He said that when the truths came
out, it would reverberate throughout the world.

 - Speaker at an Aboriginal Healing Foundation gathering in Moncton, New Brunswick

At first, the truths of former residential school students remained hidden — known only amongst us. Then the stories we shared with Canadians were dismissed, ignored and disregarded.  Now the giant has been awoken and our stories are reverberating throughout the world.  This is what we have long waited for – the return of our own.

How do we now, as Canadians, work gently with our brothers and sisters in Kamloops and Cowessess, as well as with those who will follow? 

Senator Mary Jane McCallum is a citizen of Barren Lands First Nation, Treaty 10, Manitoba Region.