Wikwemikong’s Dr. Lavell-Harvard witness to Ontario apology

Dr. Dawn Lavell-Harvard addresses the Ontario legislature following Premier Kathleen Wynne’s apology for the wrongs of the residential school system.

QUEEN’S PARK—Dr. Dawn Lavell-Harvard, president of the Ontario Native Women’s Association and also of Native Women’s Association of Canada, was one of the First Nations individuals invited to Queen’s Park on Monday to bear witness to the official apology by the premier and learn of Ontario’s steps toward reconciliation with its indigenous peoples.

In her address, noting that she hails from Wikwemikong on Manitoulin Island, she called the apology “a truly historic moment.”

“The Truth and Reconciliation Report gives us an opportunity to restore balance to our communities and nations and the women’s role in that,” Dr. Lavell-Harvard said, noting that the journey began by women being targeted by colonialism.

She spoke of the “unaddressed grief” felt by indigenous women and the broken bonds of aboriginal women and residential schools place in that.

“Violence is a learned behaviour that can be unlearned,” she continued.

In this reconciliation process, a place must be made for the re-empowerment of women and the child welfare system must include women, Dr. Lavell-Harvard continued. “Our mothers are out first teachers.”

“These roles continue to be unfulfilled because the children continue to be taken away,” she said. “We are here today to collectively honour these children.”

Dr. Lavell-Harvard spoke of the people who shared their stories of Residential School survival with the Commission. “They had the courage to carry on and speak the truth. Never again will anyone be able to say it was a well-intentioned effort gone awry,” she said, emotion in her voice. “We have heard their truth and now we must share their story.”

Dr. Lavell-Harvard said it was now time to push political stripes away. “We do better, we are stronger, when we’re together. We can and must do better. This time let it be better for us all.”