THE WEST BLOCK
Episode 10, Season 11
Sunday, January 2, 2022
Host: Mercedes Stephenson
Mary Simon, Governor Basic of Canada
Location: Ottawa, ON
Mercedes Stephenson: The invention of unmarked graves at a former residential college within the B.C. inside led to a national awakening.
When the prime minister introduced Canada’s new governor basic final summer time, many noticed it as a major step ahead on the trail to reconciliation: an Indigenous lady because the Queen’s consultant in Canada.
Mary Simon, Governor Basic: [Inuktitut language spoken]
Mercedes Stephenson: On this particular version of The West Block, we replicate on Canada’s tough previous and the promise of a greater future: one-on-one with Canada’s thirtieth Governor Basic Mary Simon.
Rising up on the shores of Ungava Bay in northern Quebec, Simon was compelled to attend a federal day college, forbidden to talk her personal language. Many years later, she discovered her voice as a broadcaster with the CBC then labored for a number of organizations representing Inuit in Canada. It was in that function that Simon attended constitutional talks, hosted by Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau in 1984, the place she shortly made her mark, difficult the prime minister.
Mary Simon, Governor Basic: “Everyone’s gonna to shake their head and so they’re gonna to say, ‘Effectively, we spent means an excessive amount of time on the equality clause,’ and but we’re speaking a few basic proper.”
Mercedes Stephenson: And Simon says she’s going to proceed to advance the pursuits of Inuit and Indigenous peoples on this nation, in addition to all Canadians as Canada’s governor basic.
Your Excellency, thanks a lot for making time for us as we speak, to sit down down and have an opportunity to get to know you somewhat bit. Canadians have watched with nice pleasure and anticipation as you assumed the function of governor basic. They’re nonetheless attending to know you. We’re nonetheless recent into your mandate, who do you see your self as?
Mary Simon, Governor Basic: In the beginning, I’m a northerner, an individual from the Arctic from my Inuit tradition, and I grew up in that surroundings and it lives with me as we speak. So, I’m at first an Inuk and likewise a Canadian so I’m actually excited to be on this place as effectively. And I stay in two worlds: I stay my tradition and my id up north after I’m up there, and down right here I stay like each Canadian. So, it’s an thrilling time and I’m actually wanting ahead to the work that’s earlier than me over the subsequent few years.
Mercedes Stephenson: In the event you had been to inform Canadians a narrative about part of your life that you simply really feel actually represents your experiences and who you might be and who you’ve grow to be as an individual, what would that story be?
Mary Simon, Governor Basic Minister: Effectively, it will start with my childhood, as a result of I’m grounded in my tradition and my language—grew up in my mom’s tradition. My father was a non-native, however he went as much as the Arctic when he was very younger and learnt the language and spoke it fluently. So all of us spoke Inuktitut at residence and English turned my second language principally as I grew up and thru college. So I’m at first a northerner.
However secondly, I used to be taught by mother and father to stay in each worlds as a non-Aboriginal particular person or Indigenous particular person, how individuals stay very otherwise as let’s say, an Indigenous particular person does within the north and an Inuk particular person. And I’ve learnt through the years that the values of each cultures is equally vital and one doesn’t favour the opposite, and I’ve full respect for each my mother and father who come from completely different cultures, and likewise my grandmother who additionally a unilingual lady from the Inuit tradition. And he or she actually taught us our lifestyle within the north, the cultural id of our individuals and all of the outdated tales, the legends that come by means of in our tradition, she used to inform us all these over a really heat woodstove blaring and she or he could be sitting there telling us legends and so forth. So it’s been a very grounding expertise for me. In actual fact, I’ve executed lots of negotiations through the years and after I sit in a giant boardroom in southern Canada negotiating, I usually assume again to the communities that I represented in these days and it helps me notice that we’re, as Inuit, actually making an attempt to grow to be equal companions in a Canadian society, with out shedding our id and our tradition as a result of colonialism and the colonization of our individuals actually did strip of us of our rights and our id for fairly a very long time. However through the years, we’ve got introduced that again and now we’re actually working to construct our personal societies again right into a a lot stronger society and to be companions within the financial evolution of our nation to have the ability to have job alternatives as others do and discover a approach to make choices for ourselves and for our group. So, that is one thing that I used to be engaged on earlier than I turned governor basic and I actually am grateful to have the chance to characterize all Canadians, not simply my very own Indigenous background however I at all times say that I’m an Indigenous person who has been appointed as a governor basic, however I’m the governor basic for all Canadians. So, I at all times wish to say that out loud so that folks notice that I’m not simply on this for Indigenous individuals. I’m on this for all Canadians, together with Indigenous Canadians.
Mercedes Stephenson: The Crown has a really heavy and at instances, very darkish historical past with Indigenous Canadians. If you had been requested to be the governor basic, the consultant of the Crown right here in Canada, what went by means of your thoughts?
Mary Simon, Governor Basic: The connection between the Crown and Indigenous individuals is one thing that could be very sacred. We proceed to construct our relationship with Canada by means of Crown-Indigenous relations inside the federal system, and after I assume again on after I was rising up, my grandmother used to indicate us an image of the Queen as a result of they revered the Queen up within the Arctic. All communities revered the Queen. And to at the present time, we nonetheless worth our relationship with the Queen and as a lot as issues traditionally have had unhealthy historical past, I feel as we speak once you have a look at the discussions which might be occurring proper now between Indigenous peoples and the Crown, we try to construct that relationship in a means that will likely be fruitful for us in addition to different Canadians. So it’s good to maneuver on, like we don’t ever wish to repeat historical past once more. However we’re wanting ahead in a means that can, I feel, permit our societies collectively as Canadians, to have the ability to work collectively in a significantly better means, extra respectful means and to have the ability to perceive each other extra. And that is the work that I’m going to be doing over the subsequent few years.
Mercedes Stephenson: Arising, we’ll have extra of my dialog with the Governor Basic Mary Simon proper after this.
Mercedes Stephenson: Final 12 months’s discovery of 215 unmarked graves at a former residential college in Kamloops shone mild on the darkish chapters of Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples.
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First Nations throughout the nation started their very own searches, together with Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan, the place 751 unmarked graves had been discovered.
Chief Cadmus Delorme, Cowessess First Nation: “All of us should put down our ignorance and unintended racism, of not addressing the reality that this nation has with Indigenous individuals. We aren’t asking for pity, however we’re asking for understanding.”
Mercedes Stephenson: Within the second a part of my interview with Governor Basic Mary Simon, we replicate on the inequities nonetheless dealing with Indigenous youth and the highway that every one Canadians should stroll in the direction of reconciliation.
What does that work appear to be to you, to have the ability to elevate that reconciliation course of because the governor basic?
Mary Simon, Governor Basic: Reconciliation is a Canadian subject not simply an Indigenous subject. It’s a relationship that we have to sort of have a look at and see how we are able to transfer ahead in a means that permits us to construct a significantly better understanding of each other. It’s a dialog that should happen throughout the nation between all Canadians, however because the residential college period was delivered to the forefront by the Fact and Reconciliation Fee work, and the hearings that had been held throughout Canada with former college students of residential faculties, Canadians have began to appreciate that this darkish historical past really does exist in an actual sense. There have been a number of tales advised up to now, but it surely wasn’t an apparent factor to many Canadians that these faculties existed in Canada and that the trauma and the behaviour of the system itself and the abuse that came about existed in our personal yard. However ever because the former college students began to talk out after which because of that the court docket motion and the Fact and Reconciliation Fee after which lately, the unmarked graves of former residential college youngsters was introduced into the limelight, Canadians have actually began to see that that is for actual, like this actually occurred in Canada and that we should handle it. So addressing it has many ranges. It has relationship with the federal government that must be addressed, the actions which might be required to deal with the wrongs of the previous.
There’s additionally the connection constructing that has to happen between individuals. People and different cultures and different societies should construct a greater relationship, a greater understanding, have extra respect for one another. You recognize it’s going to take many conversations, many tough conversations as everyone knows arduous issues that occur are arduous to do and we’ve got arduous issues to do. And a part of that’s to essentially perceive not why it occurred, however what it did to Indigenous individuals within the strategy of sending college students to residential faculties that weren’t despatched by mother and father or grandparents. They had been taken to high school, taken by authorities to go to residential college. And in these conditions, lots of trauma came about not simply the scholars themselves, however the households as effectively. And also you usually hear about intergenerational trauma, that’s actually a part of the entire thing. However I need Canadians to know that it’s not nearly Indigenous individuals. Indigenous individuals are saying to Canadians we have to resolve what’s been occurring and we have to transfer ahead and we have to do that collectively.
Mercedes Stephenson: There’s this therapeutic from the previous, however there’s additionally the continuing inequality. And I take into consideration Indigenous advocates like Cindy Blackstock or Tanya Talaga’s guide, Seven Fallen Feathers, speaking in regards to the youngsters coming all the way down to go to high school, not with the ability to go to high school, particularly up north in their very own communities even nonetheless. And I do know that for you, schooling and youth and reconciliation are all essential points. How vital and critical is that this instructional inequality that also exists for a lot of Indigenous youngsters?
Mary Simon, Governor Basic: It’s very critical. If you consider the inhabitants of Indigenous individuals, even simply within the north, over 50 per cent of the inhabitants is underneath the age of 25 or 30 and that’s an enormous a part of the inhabitants that’s going to mature and develop up. And proper now, despite the fact that we’ve got taken over lots of instructional duties, there’s nonetheless lots of inequality primarily based on resourcing of curriculum improvement, resourcing of alternatives inside the smaller communities. So post-secondary schooling implies that you must—like different cultures as effectively—you must transfer away from residence, though down right here you’ve the chance to remain residence or to go away. Up north or within the distant areas, you don’t have that alternative. If you wish to go to post-secondary schooling, you must transfer away. And Indigenous individuals are a really close-knit household and it’s tough for individuals to maneuver away, particularly when younger individuals have households when they’re fairly younger and wish to additional their schooling, it complicates issues even additional. So these are issues that I feel might be resolved, and we hope that in the future we may have a college within the Arctic for instance. We’d prefer to see extra Indigenous grounded universities that welcome Indigenous youth and college students into a brand new setting. And all it will assist by way of getting that equality as much as par, a giant a part of that can also be by way of curriculum. Curriculum improvement within the tradition and the id of the individuals isn’t well-developed and an increasing number of of that has to occur.
Mercedes Stephenson: We’ll be proper again with the ultimate a part of my dialog with Governor Basic Mary Simon proper after this.
Mercedes Stephenson: Within the closing a part of my interview with Governor Basic Mary Simon, we talk about her issues over the state of psychological well being helps on this nation and the way she hopes to unify Canadians in her function as governor basic.
Psychological well being and particularly psychological well being with you, I do know is one thing you’ve spoken about passionately. It’s a giant subject in every single place in Canada proper now. It’s an particularly massive subject in lots of Indigenous communities and up north. You clearly have your finger on the heartbeat of this. What’s the scenario proper now by way of that psychological well being disaster that is occurring?
Mary Simon, Governor Basic: Because the pandemic began two years’ in the past now, the extent of psychological well being points has elevated. There was an increase in lots of completely different conditions, even in abuse in properties has elevated and due to this fact, the pandemic has had a big effect on individuals’s psychological well being. However setting apart the pandemic for a second, the circumstances that communities stay in, should you have a look at the Indigenous communities and I’d think about as a result of Canada is such a giant nation that there are additionally individuals which might be additionally in tough conditions however we don’t hear about them as a lot, however in smaller communities and in distant communities, suicide is a giant downside. The hopelessness that youth, I feel, really feel about their very own future, has an affect. There’s lots of trauma nonetheless being skilled from mother and father that went to residential college and have carried that trauma with them and because of that, they expertise actual difficulties in life by way of being abusive as a result of they had been abused, you understand, psychologists and psychiatrists say that abused individuals grow to be abusers as effectively. The truth that this suicide subject has not been decreased, it has not decreased, is a giant concern. I feel that we don’t present sufficient companies to individuals. When individuals are in a tough scenario mentally, lots of people require sturdy assist. You want physician’s prognosis. You want counsellors. You want psychologists. You want many several types of psychological well being staff to have the ability to assist people which might be in disaster. We don’t have that service in lots of the distant communities. And even in southern Canada, I’m advised repeatedly that the companies are missing significantly by way of psychological well being. In order a rustic, we’ve got put lots of emphasis on bodily well being and we’re capable of get the sort of therapy we want by way of our bodily wellbeing, however by way of our psychological well being it’s very a lot on a a lot decrease customary of well being care and we have to handle that.
Mercedes Stephenson: You’re a really clever particular person with lots of very completely different experiences and with this unimaginable capability to see completely different cultures, completely different views. We have a look at the world and we have a look at Canada as we speak and it usually feels prefer it’s divided, prefer it’s polarized and other people look to the governor basic as a unifying power. What’s your message to Canadians?
Mary Simon, Governor Basic: I hope to be a unifying power and I’ll work every single day to work in that means. We have to have a dialog in Canada about our nation. How will we construct a greater nation for our future generations? And that dialog can begin with me. Reconciliation is a lifelong journey. It’s not one thing that ends. You recognize, it’s not a challenge. It’s not one thing that will get accomplished. It evolves in numerous methods and we have to perceive that reconciliation is a lifelong journey and we have to work at it each individually and collectively collectively. And if we are able to do this, I feel that there will likely be a significantly better understanding of who we’re on this nation. And hopefully by doing that, we are going to give one another higher alternatives, each by way of our place in Canada, to have respect, to have the sort of recognition as a individuals with out being impacted negatively, and to have that dialog with different numerous teams. We’re very multicultural. We’re a really numerous nation and Indigenous people who find themselves the primary peoples of this land are additionally a part of that, are an integral a part of this.
Mercedes Stephenson: In case your grandmother was right here sitting with us as we speak, what do you assume she’d say?
Mary Simon, Governor Basic: She would say a phrase, it’s [Inuktitut language spoken] and it means dedication, let’s hold going. Don’t quit. And that was at all times a phrase that we utilized in our household, but it surely’s additionally used every single day in my tradition, within the Inuit tradition and it’s a phrase that has lots of deep which means. And I can by no means discover the best one phrase, English phrase that incorporates the which means of that phrase in our language. In order that’s what my grandmother would in all probability say to me: hold going. You will have a dedication. Don’t quit.
Mercedes Stephenson: Your Excellency, thanks a lot for becoming a member of us as we speak and in your time and your knowledge.
Mary Simon, Governor Basic: Effectively thanks for inviting me to be in your present, I actually loved it.
Mercedes Stephenson: It’s our honour and our pleasure.
That’s it for The West Block this week. I’m Mercedes Stephenson. Comfortable New 12 months!
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