Speech on the occasion of the papal visit

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QUEBEC, July 27, 2022 /CNW/ – On the occasion of the Papal visit, Her Excellency the Right Honourable Mary Simon, Governor General of Canada, addressed all Canadians.

Hello,

Welcome, Your Holiness, to the Citadelle of Quebec.

My husband, Whit, and I are honoured to welcome you and to be joined by Survivors, Elders, leaders, knowledge keepers, diplomats, dignitaries, former commissioners of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and all of those watching from coast to coast to coast.

I want to thank the First Nations, who have occupied this territory for millennia, for welcoming me to their traditional and treaty lands.

Regardless of where you are listening from, either here at the Citadelle or elsewhere in Canada, you are on Indigenous land. It is important to acknowledge this.

Your Holiness, thank you for making this visit to Canada on what you have called your “pilgrimage of penance.” We gather at this historic Citadelle, where stories are shared and ideas are exchanged.

With this visit you’re signalling to the world that you and the Roman Catholic Church are joining us on our path of reconciliation, healing, hope and renewal.

It began in Maskwacis, where we witnessed two realities. The first was the hurt and pain of Survivors, communities of people who suffered for decades. Indigenous peoples forced to live with policies meant to strip away their cultures, languages and spiritual beliefs and practices. Survivors who, every day, carry the trauma of their residential school experience. 

But these people, these Survivors, they defy definition. They are parents who defended their children when no one else would. They are advocates who fought, and are still fighting, for their languages and cultures so that they can thrive for generations to come. They are artists who are channeling their stories through their music, dance, culture and language.

They are all proud. They are all strong.

Your Holiness, they came to hear what you had to say with hearts and minds open, some willing to forgive, some still living with the hurt, but all willing to listen. Everyone hoping to further their healing journey. 

Indigenous peoples showed the world—and continue to show us—that despite the challenges they may face, they will face it with dignity and great resolve.

I acknowledge and applaud what has been achieved, what Indigenous communities have achieved, with this week’s visit. It is Indigenous peoples who worked, waited and prayed for an apology on Indigenous lands in Canada.

They never gave up.  We must remember that it is because of their courage and resilience that we are here today.  Your Holiness, their efforts make Canada a stronger nation.

It’s our collective duty to remember what happened at residential schools, to tell the stories of Survivors and of those who never made it home, and to support and care for those who did.

…Support in terms of mental health resources. Helping families discover the true fate of those who never made it home.

…And care for Indigenous peoples who need the time and space to process what this visit means to them, and what the next steps should be.

As you indicated, Your Holiness, this is an important step towards further dialogue and actions that will lead to real reconciliation. Indeed, we look forward to hearing more of the church’s future actions to continue this essential work.

On Monday, you visited the Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples in Edmonton. There, you said that reconciliation is “a grace that must be sought.” To that I would also add that reconciliation is a grace that must be earned through continuous hard work and understanding.

That work falls to each and every one of us. It’s our sacred responsibility.

There is a time for everything. We are ready. 

In Canada, there has been a monumental shift in our thinking. Now is the time in our country’s history and consciousness for reconciliation. As we address this issue and the future health and well-being of Indigenous communities, I put my faith in each of us to encourage healing.

In Inuktitut, “to heal” is mamisagniq. Mamisagniq is 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.

Your Holiness, long after you leave Canada, I know you will continue listening and learning not only about the struggles and pain of these communities, but also about the pride they feel to be Indigenous, their resilience, and how they contribute to Canada and the world. Take these stories back with you, share them widely and continue to find ways to work together, to extend a hand, to heal our communities.

I have great hope in what I have seen so far during this visit. Canada looks forward to working with the Holy See on reconciliation, as well as many other pressing global issues such as promoting peace and education, breaking down barriers, fighting poverty and disease, and rebuilding trust. Thank you for your efforts.

And thank you to all Canadians for hearing and responding to the call for reconciliation.

Your Holiness, I wish you the very best on your journey.

May the Creator bless us all.

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SOURCE Governor General of Canada

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