Young Indigenous leaders speak on National Day for Truth and Reconciliation at Senate

Jama Maxie is one of five young Indigenous leaders who were invited to a Senate committee to share their thoughts on what truth and reconciliation mean to them.

The 26 told the senators that he grew up in the child welfare system. Her message to the committee is that she isn’t sure reconciliation can even be achieved.

“You can see over-representation in homelessness, incarceration rates, addiction,  poverty, all those things, they all intertwine,” he said. “So, I really think child-welfare reform is really needed in this country because if kids are still being removed from their culture and their families, we’re still doing the same thing we were in residential school, which is to kill the Indian in the child.”

Taylor Behn Tsakoza is dene from Fort Nelson and Prophet River First Nation in British Columbia.

She said reconciliation is a buzzword that is lacking in tangible outcomes.

Tsakoza said for reconciliation to be reached, it’s going to take some concrete steps.

“I’m wearing my shirt that says landback,” she told the committee members. “I think reconciliation is possible when my people… when our land is returned to us when I can speak my language when my nieces and nephews can speak my language.”

After their testimony to the Senate’s Indigenous Peoples committee, the young leaders were expected to meet with senators who are examining the federal government’s responsibilities to First Nations, Inuit and Métis people.

Friday marks the anniversary of the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, meant to honour victims and survivors of Canada’s residential school system.

Federal public servants and people who work in federally regulated sectors will get the day off, but most provinces have not recognized the day as a statutory holiday.

Dr. Meghan Beals says she wants Canada’s National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to resemble Remembrance Day.

The Prince Edward Island physician told senators that the day should include a moment of silence to remember the past and feature events in communities across the country to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ contributions to Canada.

“That’s really how I would see Truth and Reconciliation Day, is having something that during that day, we have community events, ceremonial events,” she told senators.

She suggested that at 10 a.m., people could take a moment of silence “for the children who have been found, or for lost individuals.”

She said it would also be important for Indigenous communities to spend time on that day “celebrating our culture.”

With files from the Canadian Press

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