Learning and Healing Through Art: Student Discussion at Rideau Hall for National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

September 29, 2023

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Good morning, 

I would like to welcome all of you to Rideau Hall, which sits on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe people.

This land acknowledgement is meaningful. This is our history. Not just Indigenous history, but Canadian history.

When we acknowledge the land this way, we recognize that the history of our country began well before Confederation, and well before the arrival of settlers.

It stretches back thousands of years. Reflecting this truth is what it means for history to be inclusive.

Inclusive history does not mean that we erase what we know. It means adding to history, giving it context and expanding it to include all perspectives.

This is part of reconciliation. This is seeing the world through a different lens.

And that is why we are here together today. To see things through a different lens. That’s what happens with art as well. Artists help us see the world differently. 

Look around you. At Rideau Hall, we are displaying art that includes many different perspectives. Thirty or fifty years ago, you would not have seen much Indigenous art here—if at all. But today, we do. Displaying Indigenous art starts conversations, encourages reflection, supports healing, and exposes Canadians to the richness of Indigenous voices and cultures.

Take, for instance, the installation you saw outside as you entered the building this morning. The bright red, crocheted pieces on the porte-cochère, by Métis artist Tracey-Mae Chambers, are part of her Hope and Healing Canada initiative. The piece evokes the struggles of Indigenous peoples, and gives a vibrant voice to the full scope of Canada’s history. It encourages people to stop. To pause. To ask questions of others and themselves. To share their thoughts and feelings.

When you saw it: what did you think? How did it make you feel?

Asking those questions and having those conversations are examples of how art can be a bridge between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.

That’s reconciliation.

History and art also interconnect in the piece behind me, by Meryl McMaster.

Thank you, Meryl, for being here with us. And I am also grateful to Elder Solomon Wawatie and Rachelle Metatawabin for sharing their experiences and learning with us today.

And I would like to thank Brad Lafortune who will be sharing Métis culture with us later this morning.

Meryl’s work, Murmur, will inspire a unique, hands-on project that we are going to do later this morning that will combine art, story and history.

Meryl has said in the past that we’re influenced by each other, and that our identities are strongly influenced by stories and language.

I want you to think about what influences you.

Is it your friends? Your family? Are you impacted by what you read online…on social media?

How does what you learn in the classroom influence your way of thinking? What about what the classroom leaves out? How does the absence of knowledge impact you?

For too long, there was an absence of information regarding residential schools. When did you first hear about residential schools? 

Indigenous peoples knew about it. The families of survivors and missing children knew. Up until very recently, it wasn’t taught in schools. It wasn’t discussed in the country.

But then things began to change.

In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its final report, with ninety-four calls to action…ninety-four acts of reconciliation.

With the release of this report, momentum began to shift and people started to talk. Unmarked graves of children who had gone missing from these schools were found and voices got louder.


Indigenous peoples spoke up…

…about residential schools.

…about the treatment of Indigenous peoples.

…about the missing children who never made it home.


But Indigenous peoples also spoke up about the joy and importance of revitalizing Indigenous languages, culture and identity.

But reconciliation is not something that falls to Indigenous peoples alone.

It falls to all of us, no matter how old we are, Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike, to make reconciliation, healing, respect and understanding part of our daily routine.

And you will lead the way.

I have great hope for the future. And I have hope because of you. Your generation, which is more diverse, more accepting and more open than any in previous history. Your legacy—one of them—will be reconciliation. I believe in your desire to create a country where we can all be free to be who we are.

As we mark National Day for Truth and Reconciliation at Rideau Hall, I look forward to hearing your questions for us, and to speaking with you throughout the morning. And I encourage you to share what you learn today with your friends and families.

Thank you.