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Dennis Dawson

The Hon. Dennis  Dawson, B.A., M.B.A. Senator Dennis Dawson was elected as one of the youngest members of Parliament in Canadian history where he served his constituents of Louis-Hébert for three consecutive terms. He was appointed to the Senate on August 2, 2005, and represents the province of Quebec and the Senatorial Division of Lauzon.

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Representatives of Aboriginal Community Received in Committee of the Whole

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Statement made on 12 June 2008 by Mary Simon, President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami

Mary Simon, President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami:

Senator LeBreton, senators, ladies and gentlemen, Senator Watt and Senator Adams, yesterday's event will go down in history. The Inuit of Canada, whose families, communities and culture was shattered by the residential school system, received this apology with great relief. Today is not a time for looking back. As I said yesterday in the House of Commons, a new day has dawned. Today, we should work together and look forward.

I woke up this morning with a new sense of optimism, even though I did not sleep that well. My thoughts were of old battles, some won and some lost. Your colleague, Senator Watt, and I were old warriors together. Some 35 years ago, we fought Goliath and achieved the historic James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. For many years, we Inuit have watched Senator Adams speak in this chamber on our behalf. Thank you, Charlie; and thank you, Willie.

[Editor's Note: Ms. Simon spoke in Inuktitut]

I also want to thank honourable senators for including Inuktitut as an official language in the fall as a pilot project. I think that is wonderful.

As young Inuit, we were full of anger sometimes, but we also had a vision infused by our people of who they had been and what they could be again. Here we are today, certainly older, and hopefully wiser. I know that changes take place, energy and patience, and heaven knows we have been patient.

I am here to tell you that it is our time. The magnitude of yesterday's historic apology and request for forgiveness will be measured in the future actions of government. Much of our past relationship with government has been diminished by unfulfilled promises. Our Inuit in positions of authority and influence now have the responsibility to build on this offer of a new relationship. Government now has the responsibility to dedicate energy and creativity in framing this new relationship with us based on respect for who we are, our traditions, history, language and culture. We must be in the room working together with government to build this new relationship.

Gone are the days when policy or legislative initiatives were invoked for us. The Prime Minister, on behalf of Canada and Canadians, also asked us for forgiveness. As individuals, we will make our own choice in that regard. As leader of the organization representing the Inuit of Canada, I believe that real and lasting forgiveness must be earned. It will be forthcoming only when it is clear that government is willing to act.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister said:

The burden of this experience has been on your shoulders for far too long. The burden is properly ours as a Government, and as a country.

Restoring dignity, self-worth, confidence and hope for the future will be no easy task, and we know that. It will be more difficult for those Inuit, for example, in Nunatsiavut who suffered the same indignities as other victims of that cruel system and yet are excluded from the settlement agreement, and unjustly so. I asked the Prime Minister yesterday to reconsider this decision and allow these Inuit victims to embrace this apology fully. Support their healing as well. I call upon senators and the spirit of human justice that reigns in this chamber to prevail.

Let my people, wherever they are located in Canada, who have been excluded from the settlement agreement for reasons that have nothing to do with human justice, into the healing process. Let them into the settlement agreement.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission will be an important process for supporting the restoration of our dignity and self-worth, but the process does not end there. Canada must commit to the development and support of policies and long-term programs that are needed to restore our families and rebuild our sense of community and our place in Canada. In the case of Inuit, we are well positioned to do just that. All our Inuit regions have achieved comprehensive modern-day land claims agreements. These agreements are constitutionally protected treaties between the Inuit and the Government of Canada, and have formed the basis of a foundation relationship with the Government of Canada.

We also live in a region of Canada that is at the centre of many of Canada's immediate and looming challenges: climate change, hydrocarbon development and sovereignty, to name the most evident. Meeting and addressing these challenges will take commitment and human and financial resources. It will require that we all take responsibility to contribute what we can, individually and collectively. We need robust and sustainable Northern communities. We need a healthy, confident and educated Inuit population. We need to reinvigorate our language and traditions. Let us now move forward together.

I repeat what I said yesterday: I stand ready to work honestly and energetically with government. I will watch the actions of government closely. Today and tomorrow, let us together, as First Peoples of this great country, arm in arm with the legislators of Canada, rejoice. Rest during this weekend. Be assured that the work starts next week, but we can say that work will begin together in collaboration and in the spirit of forging a future for all of us together.


Recent Statements from Liberal Senators

First Nations Control of First Nations Education Bill

10 Apr, 2014 | By Senator Lillian Eva Dyck | Honourable senators, I would like to say a few words about this motion. I am definitely in support of it. The idea of a First Nations education act is critically important to the welfare of First Nations across Canada, and especially to our young people.

Income Inequality

10 Apr, 2014 | By Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette | What does the government intend to do to learn from the financial crisis, reduce wealth inequality, and follow the lead of other jurisdictions that have started to rein in compensation that has nothing to do with the productivity of the people who earn the average salary of a Canadian in half a day?

Broadcast of Senate Proceedings

10 Apr, 2014 | By Senator Grant Mitchelll | What is the leader's personal opinion about televising the Senate?

National Pharmacare

10 Apr, 2014 | By Senator Art Eggleton | That was supported unanimously in the Senate, so I take it, senator, that you would be willing to now advance this idea to the government.

National Pharmacare

10 Apr, 2014 | By Senator James Cowan | My question is: Will this government put National Pharmacare on the agenda?
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