Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank all of the speakers who came before me today for sharing their powerful words and to recognize this day.
I recognize that we are on the traditional territory of the Algonquin first peoples. I stand here before the House as the descendant of white settlers who are, in part, responsible for the actions of our government and our churches.
Today is Orange Shirt Day, when we honour and remember residential school survivors and bear witness to their healing journey, it is important to recognize the destructive policies of governments of our past that sought to destroy the cultures, languages and way of life of indigenous people in the country.
I have had the honour and privilege as a filmmaker of working with first nations elders in my community, in the Snaw-Naw-As, Stz'uminus and Snuneymuxw First Nations. I worked on a project with the Hul'qumi'num' Health Hub for a film called Tat ul utul' , “Getting to Know Each Other”. It was to educate people who went into the health care system in the Cowichan District Hospital, so health care workers understood the history of colonialism in the country, how it affected people and why indigenous people did not seek health care when they had health issues.
When I talked to those elders, they talked about their residential school experience. They talked about the Indian hospital in Nanaimo, which has a horrible legacy as well. They talked about their experiences and shared a lot with me. During that time period, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission testimonial came through the community. I also heard testimonials from family friends, who have known me since I was a toddler. They told me stories I had never heard before, horrific stories. Canadians need to hear these stories to understand.
People should hear these testimonies from the survivors of the residential school system. We need to do more than listen. We need to act. We need to implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. We need to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We need to implement the recommendations of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry. We need to take the words and turn them into action, and follow through. That is our responsibility in this place.
I want to indulge in a personal story.
In 1959, my father, Jim Manly became a United Church minister. He was a minister at a logging camp, but when he married my mother, Eva Manly, they moved to Kitamaat Village. That was his first calling and their first place together as a couple, in Kitamaat Village with the Haisla people.
Five years later, I was born and six years later my parents adopted my sister, Heather, who is indigenous. We were surrounded by indigenous family and friends who taught us about their culture and gave us the unvarnished truth about what happened to indigenous people in the country. They taught us a lot.
At two years old, I was adopted. My grandmother on my father's side died when my father was 19. We were adopted by Granny Irene Starr. She took us into her arms. She was such a loving, caring woman that the kids in the village would just glom onto her. They were all attracted to her beauty and her loving nature. I loved Granny Irene dearly. She went to a residential school, but she never talked about it. It was not an experience that she shared.
When we were teenagers, we figured out that all of these family friends were actually my sister's biological family. Granny Irene was her grandmother and Auntie Vina Starr was her mother. Vina Starr was the first female aboriginal called to the bar in British Columbia. My sister, who has spent 25 years with the Ontario Provincial Police, working in indigenous policing in the north, is now working on the bar exam. I wish Heather Manly good luck with her bar exam, following in the footsteps of her mother.
In the early nineties, when Willy Blackwater was taking his case against the Alberni residential school, the United Church and the Government of Canada, my parents stood with him because they felt a responsibility as members of the church and my father a minister. My father was looking for research on the Alberni school, but he found a letter in the archives written in 1898 by a woman called Elizabeth Shaw.
It was an 18-page scathing letter. This woman came from the east and went to the Port Simpson school run by Thomas Crosby, and she outlined 18 pages of systematic abuse of kids. This letter was written 122 years ago. My father found the letters of the government ministers and church officials who all shut her down as a whistleblower and called her crazy. She lost her faith and ended up dying in a mental institution in Brockville. The people who read those letters in the film that I co-produced with my mother, called The Awakening of Elizabeth Shaw, were all connected to this story. The ministers read the voices of the ministers. Government ministers read the voices of government members, and my father read part of it. The Dudoward girls read the voices of the chief and the chief's wife from Port Simpson.
My mother asked Granny Irene to sing a hymn in the film called Flee as a Bird. My mother explained to her when we were recording that the children in these homes could not escape because of the ocean and mountains. There was nowhere for them to go. When Granny Irene sang this song her voice broke and trembled and at the end, when she finished singing, she wept. She had never talked about residential schools, but I knew that she had suffered trauma and a lot of pain, and so had all her children and grandchildren, from what happened at the residential schools.
Knowing the truth, now is the time for reconciliation, and it is incumbent upon all of us to turn words into action and to do that work here in this place.