Mr. Speaker, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is an important milestone in Canada’s history. The release of their report, ‘Honouring the Truth, Reconciling the Future’ this past June has moved the national discussion to reconciliation and provided tangible actions that need to be taken.
It has compelled Canadians to recognize and accept the history of our young nation. The discussion is no longer about whether the residential school experience happened or not. What it is about is this: Aboriginal people in Canada have suffered from and continue to suffer from the direct impacts of residential school abuse. There is a growing understanding that we must address this legacy now. It is our duty to help support those with life-long scars to find closure.
Half of the population of the Northwest Territories is Aboriginal. We all know someone who has suffered the direct impact of residential school abuse. Many of their families and loved ones continue to be affected due to the physical, mental and sexual abuses endured at the hands of the residential school experience. It is imperative to the success of the Northwest Territories and its people, socially, culturally, economically, AND spiritually, that reconciliation takes place. No one is immune to the impact of our shared history nor should anyone be left out of our shared future.
The Northwest Territories continues to be a model for the rest of the country not only through our policy of Respect, Recognition and Responsibility but through our many programs and services. Reconciliation is about building a nation where mutual respect between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples exists. In order for this to happen, there must be recognition and acceptance of the past, acknowledgement of the harm inflicted, atonement for the causes, and action to achieve change. The need for reconciliation in Canada is urgent.
Mr. Speaker, included with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report were 94 recommendations as Calls to Action. Since its release, our government departments have looked at each of the recommendations and have considered how we could – and should – respond to those not only directed to the Government of the Northwest Territories but also those where a national dialogue and response is needed. While we are already responding to many recommendations, we recognize much work still needs to be done.
Later today, I will table ‘Meeting the Challenge of Reconciliation: The Government of the Northwest Territories’ Response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action’. This document is a way for our government to value the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and for us to say that we have heard, and we will continue to take actions. We owe it to our people. We owe it to Aboriginals across this country.
Meeting the Challenge is intended to be our initial response to the recommendations outlined in Calls to Action. The response highlights the many actions that the Government of the Northwest Territories has taken, from recognizing Aboriginal languages and funding Aboriginal governments to revitalize them, to mandating curriculum on the residential school experience. However, this response is just the beginning and there is more work to be done in the Northwest Territories and in Canada.
In our response, the Government of the Northwest Territories commits to further action aimed at achieving reconciliation. We will work with our residents and Aboriginal governments in our territory. We will work with our partners throughout Canada, including sharing with them the residential school’s curriculum we developed in partnership with Nunavut. It’s long overdue that we work together, as one nation, to encourage positive and concrete steps forward along the path of reconciliation.
As the 17th Legislative Assembly comes to a close, I am certain that our government will continue to play a role in other ways that support Aboriginal people, not only in the Northwest Territories but across Canada. We will continue to participate at national forums such as the Roundtable on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, to build relationships with Aboriginal governments in the spirit of ‘Respect, Recognition and Responsibility’.
Mr. Speaker, I want to acknowledge the contribution of Commissioner Marie Wilson to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, to the people of Canada and to the people of the Northwest Territories. On their behalf I would like to thank Marie for her service and assure her the people of the Northwest Territories will continue to be partners in reconciliation.
I look forward to seeing the benefit of reconciliation in our communities and across our country.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.