Thank you for the space you've created for me to speak today. My name is Ron Rousseau, from the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.
I'm here today in my capacity as the indigenous rights equity vice-president of the Canadian Labour Congress. Within my union and the broader labour movement, I have worked for 15 years for such a bill to pass, more specifically, for June 21 to be declared and recognized as a national holiday.
My mother, Marjorie, was Anishinabe, from a small reserve outside of Sudbury, Ontario. Just out of residential school, with three young children, she ran as far away as she could because of the trauma she had experienced. You can't get any further than the Yukon and that's where she settled.
During the era of the sixties scoop, and the ongoing operation and imposition of residential schools, my mother made her escape. My siblings and I grew up never talking about our culture, dance or being Anishinabe. It wasn't something we knew how to talk about, and it certainly wasn't something we knew how to celebrate.
Later in life, I started studying the history of my people. I'm grateful that before my mom passed, we spent many an hour talking and crying about our family history. I learned of the impact of residential school on my mom's life, and how we ended up in the Yukon. I slowly and painfully embraced my culture, joined a dance group and immersed myself in local culture. I shared with my adult children, Jayla, Samantha and Nicole, the dance, song, history and potlatch. My grandson, Roland, has had an amazing childhood of watching grandpa dance, sing and tell stories.
My family was able to break many cycles that are intertwined with the legacy of colonialism, the devastation caused by residential schools and the threat of the sixties scoop. My family eventually learned how to celebrate who we are, and what we have become. We recognize the resilience in our communities. We recognize the strength and the wisdom. I wish that for all first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples across Canada.
One of the most sacred days in indigenous culture is the summer solstice. We have an opportunity to celebrate our culture with dance, song, art and potlatch, as well as to share our almost-lost cultures with settlers. With celebration comes the invitation to move forward on the road of reconciliation. National Indigenous Peoples Day as a statutory holiday will mean that while we need to take our own personal journey towards healing, a day dedicated to celebration and sharing of diverse first nations, Métis and Inuit cultures has the potential of making a healing journey less isolating.
I ask you to consider my story, and many stories similar to mine, as you consider June 21 as a statutory holiday. The government has the potential to be on the right side of history.
I don't speak for all of my people, but I do speak for many who believe that the statutory holiday must be about celebration. It must be about inspiring reconciliation. It must be about more families breaking the cycles, just like mine. I'm from Yukon, a territory with 23% indigenous culture that has June 21 as a statutory holiday already built in. The NWT, with 51% indigenous culture, has June 21 as a national statutory holiday. Nunavut, with an 86% indigenous population, has already passed June 21 as a statutory holiday.
Gunalcheesh. Thank you very much for your time.