Stained Glass Window Dedication Ceremony - Wilton Littlechild, Commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Transcript: Wilton Littlechild, Commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Greg Rickford: In 2009, along with Mr. Justice Murray Sinclair and Miss Murray Wilson, chief Wilton Littlechild was appointed commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Commissioner Littlechild is a former student, a respected lawyer and a strong advocate for the rights of indigenous people. He served as a member of Parliament from 1988 to 1993 for the riding of Wetaskimin-Rimby. I invite Commissioner Littlechild to speak on behalf of the Commission.
Wilton Littlechild: (In native language). On behalf of my colleagues, fellow commissioners Justice Murray Sinclair and Dr. Murray Wilson, I thank all of you in your individual – as your individual excellencies for this great honour. Although I come with a very heavy heart this morning, later this morning, in my community, we will lay to rest two former residential school survivors, my aunt, Helen Gladu and a former school mate and hockey manager, Clark Cutknife. So with your permission, I dedicate my words to them and for them and for all those who have gone before us in their spirit journey, especially the children.
I want to begin by also thanking Christi Belcourt for her outstanding vision and ability to capture in such a respectful way the Indian residential school legacy. To do it in a way that we now have forever a new window on Canada. As a former residential school student, a former member of Parliament and now a commissioner for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, I want to say how very important, incredibly important and appreciated this dedication is today. For the past three years, we, at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, have been gathering the truth. We were guided in part by the Right Honourable Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Apology on behalf of the Government of Canada and indeed all Canadians when he signaled, and I quote, "…a new beginning and an opportunity to move forward together in partnership."
This was in a positive way renewing and engaging the treaty relationship on which much of Canada is founded. Since then, we have heard in our hearings from former student survivors many many times about windows. From those who looked out from the school windows, waiting and hoping to see their parents come for them, those who cried when no one came for them especially because it was time for Christmas or some holidays, those who were told, sometimes being pulled away from the window by the hair, "Get away from that window" or "Your parents are not coming anyway", those who simply looked out into the dark or into the distance, silently crying, because they were so lonesome and homesick.
There's this story about a little boy they tell. He's seen at a window today at a former residential school in Manitoba and when he's seen through that window, he's also heard for the crying. I was one of those boys, but to all of them, we dedicate this window. To those also who told us how they smiled and they laughed and they couldn't contain their tears of joy when they saw their parents or grandparents coming to visit them or to take away from school.
So you see, this window is very special. Commissioner Wilson, early in our mandate, said to us "We need a national monument to honour the children". So now to all of us, the indigenous peoples and all Canadians, it is truly a unique window on Canada. It will serve to remind us that the residential school story is a Canadian story. It's a unique opportunity, as the prime minister stated during the apology and I quote, "…to educate all Canadians, it will be a positive step in forging a new relationship" he said. As we now look out into the future, this window will shed light on a new path, a path of reconciliation, one that ignites all of our spirits to work together towards a new and more inclusive and a better Canada. It is and will be a daily call to action for all of us. (In native language). Thank you very much. Merci beaucoup.