Residential School Monument Location Announcement

June 20, 2023

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Before I begin, I would also like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe people who have lived on and cared for this land for thousands of years. These acknowledgements are steeped in meaning and reflect  Canadians’ respect for the journey of reconciliation we are on together.

It’s an honour to join you for this historic announcement.

I am here as the governor general of Canada.

And I am here as an Honorary Witness of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a commitment I’ve had since 2014. It is a commitment to bear witness to the truth told by residential school Survivors, and to share what I hear and learn. It’s a commitment I’ve honoured, and will continue to honour for the rest of my life.

Throughout my life, I’ve listened, watched and acted.

I witnessed the lack of quality services and education for Indigenous peoples. I have spent my life fighting for Indigenous rights.

I witnessed the apology, 15 years ago, delivered by the Government of Canada, right here on Parliament Hill. I was honoured to represent Inuit and deliver a reply on their behalf.

As governor general, I witnessed the apology by His Holiness Pope Francis to Indigenous peoples in Canada—on their land—for the pain caused by residential schools. And I have witnessed the beginning of a renewed relationship between the Crown, with His Majesty The King, and Indigenous peoples.

I am here to bear witness once again.

Today is meaningful for Indigenous peoples across Canada because we’re showing our commitment to honouring the lives, stories and memories of those who survived or those who lost their lives at residential schools. Today, we show them as a country that they are not, and will never be, forgotten.

This morning, we’re gathered to honour every child who attended a residential school. Every Indigenous person who lived with the trauma. Every family that experienced and is still experiencing intergenerational trauma.

But we’re also honouring the resilience of Indigenous peoples, the Survivors, the advocates who would not be silenced, and who tell the truth of our history.

This national monument is not the end of our journey, a journey for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples toward understanding and healing. Healing, like reconciliation, is a process.

It’s a journey, not a destination. It takes time. It begins slowly, softly, carefully. It follows its own path, carrying us forward, but also in many other directions.

Eventually, healing takes us beyond powerlessness or anger or pain. It takes us beyond trauma.

It renews our mental, spiritual and physical health. I’ve seen this in action.

I’ve seen healing through art, through community, through kindness, through generosity, through the revitalization of language, culture and identity.

And while reconciliation and healing has no end date, and it doesn’t involve just one act or project, I would like you to remember:

Every act is important.

And this act is significant.

The site selection, on Parliament Hill, allows as many Canadians as possible the opportunity to see this monument. It represents our history—Canada’s true history. 

So near to the House of Commons, it will serve as a constant reminder to parliamentarians that the policies and laws they create, debate, legislate and enforce have consequences. They can impact the health and well-being of so many. It is a reminder that we must never again let anyone—not Indigenous peoples, not anyone—suffer the consequences of racism and inequality, of cruelty and neglect.

And there is hope. I see progress being made, even if it seems slow.

I see hope in the young people with us today, Indigenous and non-Indigenous children honouring and remembering the past. Their generation is the most diverse in Canada’s history, and the most accepting. We tell them our history so they will never repeat our mistakes. In turn, we can learn from them about compassion and inclusion.

I also see hope in the strength of culture—like the performances we saw here today—and the revival of Indigenous languages. As others have spoken their language here today, I am proud to speak in my own mother tongue, Inuktitut:

I see hope in hearing Indigenous languages spoken. Indigenous languages are part of who we are, and we need to speak them and support their use at every opportunity.

And, of course, there is hope in this monument, just as there is remembrance, sadness, progress, resilience and perseverance.

This national monument will stand as a tribute to the lost Indigenous children, First Nations, Inuit and Métis. It will stand as a reminder that Indigenous voices are strong. And it stands as another step Canada is taking towards reconciliation. These stories will no longer be denied. They live in each of us as a national commitment, and all Canadians have a responsibility to learn, acknowledge and act in ways that bring about healing and understanding.

I thank the steering committee for their work, as well as all partners in making this happen. Your actions are showing us how to walk the path of reconciliation.

I cannot wait to return here, to this site, alongside people from coast to coast to coast, to see this monument fully realized, and to see this new gathering place for national ceremonies, events and meaningful anniversaries. As we mark National Indigenous Peoples Day tomorrow, this is the perfect time to celebrate how far we have come together and to look forward with hope to all we will do.

The children—those who never had the chance to truly begin their lives—would be proud.

Thank you.