Lorraine Mitchelmore speaks at Closing Plenary on Report of Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Speaker Housakos, Speaker Scheer, Minister O’Toole, Conference Members:

What an honour for the Conference to be on Parliament Hill, where the issues of this nation are debated and the laws that govern us are created.
I remember vividly being here in 2008, as a conference member, and thinking that every Canadian should have this privilege of visiting the floor of these Chambers where our democracy finds its home.

Much of what we are most proud as a country is a product of debate from these historic places. Yet, as we have heard so clearly this week, there are painful, ugly and cruel things from our past that also have been brought into law.

As Speaker Housakos has acknowledged so well, we all have been deeply moved by the Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. As a country I know we have the capacity, and more importantly the will, to face and address these past wrongs. And this, too, must involve the lawmakers who work from these historic chambers.

But it is not just our politicians who must lead our country forward as one country, not two. Each of us in this room, each of us as leaders, must educate ourselves, and be willing to be educated, on the past wrongs so that we too can properly chart the course forward for our organizations and communities.
While our country’s body of laws is represented by this House of Commons and Senate, equally important is the ethical and moral underpinning of our organizations and communities, that leaders like you represent.

Your generation, and mine, may not stand accused of running the residential schools that we have heard so much about. That is not the point. Your generation, and mine, do not want future generations of Canadians to know that we acknowledged these injustices of the past and yet failed to strive for change – the change required to ensure the full participation in our society of every Canadian who seeks their place in the greatest country in the world.

You have seen much in your travels across Canada. The Governor General and I look forward to hearing from you over the next two days about what you learned. Tonight, we will enjoy this special place. Tonight, too, in the centre of our democracy, I ask you to join me in committing yourselves to actively helping our country move forward as one country… understanding each other as best we can… being truthful about the past… and being dedicated to a future where every person can be proud of their country and confident they have the capacity to succeed.

In many ways this is what the Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference is about.

Thank you Speaker Scheer, Speaker Housakos. We wish you both well in your important work. And we will remember the work we must do, too.