Jennifer Moore Rattray Transcript

JENNIFER MOORE RATTRAY: Well, thank you to everyone joining us in Winnipeg and particularly those who have travelled to join us to be here today.

What a joy it is for us to gather in person again. I've hugged two people already today and look forward to hugging many more. Today's event is also being live streamed so, hello, bonjour, thank you, merci to all of our online — all of our "virtual friends" — I call them.

I am so pleased to be here today for these important and inspiring presentations that we hope are going to continue to move us forward on the path to reconciliation. I am the great-granddaughter of Wapusk the White Bear, also of a hunter named the Porcupine, and my mother's people have been on this land since the first sunrise.

Generations of my family attended Brandon residential school, and at least three of my family members died as children at that school. They're currently buried in unmarked graves under an RV park in Brandon, and they are but three of thousands of lost children that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada began to identify.

And there are so many more survivors and I want to acknowledge the survivors of residential schools, of the day schools, of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, of the Sixties Scoop, and also of the child welfare system and the many systems that you spoke of, Mary.

This is our truth. Last June, the children woke up Canada, and it is now our collective responsibility to acknowledge this wrong and to together create a Canada where there is hope and opportunity and prosperity for everybody. Well, the presenters that we will be hearing from today have taken up that responsibility and the work they do every day is going to change our country for the better.

Right now in Manitoba there's a well-documented 11-year-and-growing gap in life expectancy between First Nations and all other citizens living in Manitoba, and it will be similar across the country.

Right now in Canada, as the Auditor General let us know in her latest report just a few days ago, there is systemic racism within the correctional system. Indigenous people are disproportionately sent to maximum security federal prisons more often and are less likely to receive parole.

This, and all of the embedded tentacles of our colonial past, need to change, and being here together is an important step in that change. Well, the Canada's History Forum is an annual event, some of you will know, a highlight of the year for Canada's History Society.

It is typically held in Ottawa in conjunction with the Governor General's History Awards, which recognize excellence in five categories: Community Programming, Museums, Scholarly Research, Popular Media, and also Teaching.

We are excited to bring this year's Forum to Winnipeg and to feature, as was mentioned, several past and present recipients of the Governor General's History Awards. Today we will be thinking and talking about truth and reconciliation, we will look at projects and initiatives that bring together Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples and that work to reclaim traditional cultures, knowledge, and languages.

Now this conversation comes at an important moment for truth and reconciliation. In the past year alone, we have seen significant events that have encouraged conversation and reflection and action amongst people in Canada.

We have seen incredible community-led efforts to investigate the sites and records related to students who attended residential schools. We've seen a tangible act of reconciliation with the transfer of the Winnipeg HBC building to the Southern Chiefs' Organization, where I am proud to be the Chief Operating Officer working for Grand Chief Jerry Daniels and the chiefs of the 34 Anishinaabe and Dakota Nations in the territory that is now called Manitoba.

And in 2021, Her Excellency the Right Honourable Mary Simon was sworn in as the first Indigenous Governor General of Canada. With these events and many others we are reminded of the important role and responsibility that we all have in furthering reconciliation.

While we had hoped to be joined today by The Honourable Murray Sinclair, unfortunately we received word this morning that he is unable to be here due to unforeseen circumstances. He sends his regrets and thanks all of the presenters for your important work.

But fortunately, we do have a full program today and many inspiring projects and initiatives to hear about, and as His Honour stated when he presented the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, "We have described for you a mountain. We have shown you the way to the top. We call upon you to do the climbing."

Well, the presenters that have joined us today are making good progress as they climb that mountain and their work will be an inspiration to us all.