Ontario Cultural Reception

March 31, 2022

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It’s a pleasure to be here in Toronto on my very first official visit to the province.

I would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional lands for many Indigenous peoples, including the Mississauga, the Anishinabeg, Haudenosaunee and the Wendat. This territory comes under Treaty 13, and I pay my respects in particular to the Mississaugas of the Credit.

This acknowledgement is not a token statement, but an admission of truth. Toronto, indeed the whole province of Ontario, has long been the home of many First Nations, Métis and Inuit people.

By recognizing the truth, we are taking one more step on the road to reconciliation.

Of course, one step is simply that: one step.

Reconciliation is not one act or project. It is a constant work in progress that requires every day efforts, with no end date. It is striving for understanding and respect.

And so I encourage everyone in this room not only to speak one truth, but also to seek out Indigenous communities. When you do, go beyond one single visit. Begin a dialogue, learn about the realities of the people there. Listen to their concerns, their hopes and their aspirations. Listen to their accomplishments and creative solutions. And listen to them when they describe the impacts of climate change, supply shortages, mental health struggles, or a lack of education or opportunities. Be proactive and work together to make lives better, instead of reacting to a headline months or years down the road.

This also holds true for global issues, such as the heartbreaking conflict in Ukraine that has already taken the lives of too many. Canada stands with Ukraine and all Ukrainian-Canadians who are worried about their loved ones overseas.

Throughout this city and province, there are diverse peoples who are contributing to our rich society. They speak many different languages, hold different beliefs. They are free to love, to be loved and to be who they are. That is our strength. That is Canada’s strength.

In every challenge we face, there is always hope when our diverse communities work together as part of a whole.

I grew up with this belief.

My mother and grandmother taught my siblings and me the traditional ways of Inuit. In our small community in Nunavik, which is still called northern Quebec, we relied on each other for survival. We hunted, fished and gathered food. We travelled by dog team and boat. And we spoke Inuktitut, our language.

There is a word in my mother tongue that I often heard growing up: ajuinnata. It has many different meanings. It is a vow, a promise, to never give up. It’s committing ourselves to action, no matter how daunting the cause may be.

As we strive to improve the world around us, for Indigenous peoples and for our diverse communities, let us all work together, in the spirit of ajuinnata. Let us commit ourselves to change, to listening, to understanding each other. Let us build a community, a city, a province, a country of which we can all be proud. Where we can all thrive.

Thank you.