Today is an important day in Canadian, as an important piece of work has been released to the public. The work of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women was released this morning in a moving ceremony, a moment that many people have been looking towards for many years. In the Indigenous community, today marks a moment where our stories and lived experiences are being told widely and in some cases, heard for the very first time:
Today is a day that many Indigenous people openly wondered if we would ever see. In the run up to the last election, almost all of the political parties pledged to have this National Inquiry if they were elected. Upon their election in 2015, we started to look towards the incoming Liberal government for follow through on this important promise, expecting it to be kept. And despite issues and problems that happened through out, today came and we saw the report come out, which you can read here.
Over 1,200 pages and 231 “Calls for Justice” included, the report is an important milestone, one that marks the beginning of the work, not the end. The work must continue to see these recommendations taken from words to action, and not have the same fate of other important reports that have ended up in a pile gathering dust. As we look ahead to that important work though, we need to see the reaction to what this report has to say from our political leaders and parties, because they are the ones who will be expected to lead. It was with that in mind I saw this play out late last week, something that made my stomach turn:
Time for a little confession everyone; there are very few politicians, let alone people in general, who make my blood boil like Bernard Valcourt. The level of contempt that I have for this man, who now trolls victims and families from his Twitter account in his basement in Edmundston, is beyond compare. To read his comments are not shocking to me, as this is the same person who sat in his seat on the day that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission made its final report in such a disrespectful way. That report released in 2015 made it plain the genocide that took place in this country, something that is a fact. So to see Valcourt dare to question that today when this report says the same in 2019 is beyond disgusting and inhumane. And then to turn around and accuse people of being “propagandists” is even worse. What a petty little man.
But here’s the thing folks, we all know that Valcourt is not alone in his thoughts. While I appreciate the sincerity in Cathy McLeod’s Tweet where she disowns Valcourt’s comments and I don’t doubt her honesty in them, I also don’t doubt that there are members of her caucus and card-carrying Conservatives out there who agree fully with Valcourt’s ignorant sentiments. One thing that was omitted from McLeod’s tweet was any pledge or promise to enact those calls to justice, which speaks volumes too. The fact remains that if the Conservatives had their way, there never would have been a national inquiry, as they were the only party who fought it tooth and nail.
For me this response from Valcourt hurts. Of the many things I had to chance to be a part of, one of the hardest was being a part of the Special Committee that was formed in the last Parliament on this issue. On that committee we sat for weeks and weeks as we heard testimony from families of victims, support groups and Indigenous peoples from all across the country. We heard stories that will never escape my mind and heard of such pain and loss that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemies. Every night after those meetings, I would go home and give my young daughter the biggest hugs and just hold her because I couldn’t get out of my mind the fact that my daughter, simply by the virtue of being Métis, was far more likely to end up in that situation than other women and daughters in this country. That’s a feeling that so many Indigenous parents and families have gone through for decades, something that this report brings to the fore.
If you have a soul, you can’t see these things, hear these stories and walk away unmoved. I know that Bernard Valcourt has heard them and given his lack of empathy or care for these victims and their families, I can only assume that his soul departed his living body long ago. And honestly this is part of the challenge that we face as a country going ahead; it’s accepting the truth of what’s happened in this country and stopping the denial that acts that fall under the definition of genocide have happened here. This is our history, whether if we like it or not. Canada is not above that.
The only way we can do better is to accept the facts and start working towards being better. Our future is not set in stone and is full of possibilities. But in order to reach that future, we can’t ignore our history, past and recent. We can’t simply close our eyes to what has happened because it’s uncomfortable for some to hear and accept. People like Bernard Valcourt are not a part of the solution, they are a part of the problem. And if we listen to them, the problems of the past will be repeated again and again. We cannot do justice to the families and friends of the victims if our country allows people like Valcourt to have us bury our heads in the sand, ensuring that more families will face the same pain. This is a time for empathy and love for one another. That means accepting our past and acting on these calls for justice to ensure our future is better. Gathered dust doesn’t help to make our future better, and really the only thing that should gather dust here is the views and opinions of the like of Bernard Valcourt.