Treaty Four Protocol Ceremony
Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan, Tuesday, September 13, 2016
I would like to start by acknowledging that we meet here today in Treaty Four territory. And I would like to thank the Treaty Four First Nations of Manitoba and Saskatchewan for inviting me to join you for this occasion.
I’m very pleased to be here with all of you.
And I’m honoured to be here to commemorate the signing of Treaty Four,
because in this country
we are all treaty people.
And, to borrow from the language of treaties, we always will be,
“for as long as the sun shines, the grass grows and the water flows.”
Today is about much more than simply marking an anniversary.
Yes, Treaty Four was signed near here 142 years ago, but that doesn’t make it history.
Treaties, as you know,
are living, breathing documents.
They are forward-looking.
They matter to all of us, because they lie at the heart of the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians.
And Treaty Four is fundamental to the relationship between the Crown and the First Nations you represent.
Our relationship flows from this treaty,
and today we have a chance to strengthen and reinvigorate that relationship.
It’s not unlike the opportunity that is now facing all Canadians.
It’s an opportunity that could be summed up in one word:
But as you know, reconciliation is not for the faint of heart.
It calls for action.
Important as they are, words spoken and gestures of friendship made at ceremonies like this are not enough.
So what is the role of a governor general in this treaty relationship?
As I see it, my roles include listening, learning and celebrating.
Those are among the reasons I am here today:
to learn about the spirit and intent of Treaty Four from your perspective,
and to celebrate this important treaty.
Another of my roles is to witness.
As you may know, my wife, Sharon, and I are serving as honorary witnesses to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
It is both a solemn responsibility and a great honour to do so.
We’ve learned about the suffering that took place because of residential schools.
And we’ve been inspired by the bravery of so many Survivors and their descendants who are on difficult healing journeys.
To those Survivors who are here today:
thank you for your courage.
Reflecting on what I’ve learned as an honorary witness, I’ve grown aware that we are in need of a new narrative in this country.
A new story.
We need a new story to replace the destructive and paternalistic one that has caused such pain and suffering to so many people,
and that has caused such harm to Canada.
A new story is more than just words.
It can help us to reimagine our relationship, and to take right actions for change—
actions that are consistent with our story.
And when I look around for this story,
and listen for it,
I begin to realize that in fact it isn’t a new story we need, but rather a very old one.
It’s a story that is told in the treaties, including in Treaty Four.
It’s a story of partnership: balanced, reciprocal and respectful.
This old story predates Canada itself, to at least the time of the Royal Proclamation in 1763, which laid the basis for all treaties.
Next year we will mark Canada’s 150th birthday, but as the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples reminded us 25 years ago:
“The first confederal bargain was with First Peoples.”
That bargain recognized we must work together if we are to survive and thrive in this vast and challenging land.
And it saw several fundamental truths begin to be enshrined in law:
We are all here to stay,
and we are better off as partners.
So we don’t need a new story.
We have an old story, which is told in the treaties—
treaties such as Treaty Four.
Thank you once again for welcoming me to this commemoration.
And thank you for inviting me to help retell the story of Canada.