REGINA — Gov. Gen. Mary Simon told high school students gathered in a football stadium ahead of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation that she hopes Canada can be a place where all young people are free from judgment.
"Education is a key to reconciliation," Simon said Thursday in English, French and Inuktitut, the Inuit language. "We must learn about each other, to reach out to different cultures — Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike.
"It is our shared responsibility to record and teach the true history of Canada."
She encouraged the students in Mosaic Stadium — home to the Canadian Football League Saskatchewan Roughriders — to lead with understanding and respect, and to raise issues with family and friends.
"Together, let us engage with the diverse communities that make up our country, to create a nation where all young people can take control of their destinies, where they can be who they are free from judgment. That is my hope, and I hope that is your hope as well. That is what I work toward."
Simon, the first Indigenous person to serve as Governor General, said she was forced to attend a federal day school as a child in northern Quebec and was punished for speaking Inuktitut.
However, she also acknowledged the progress Canadians have made toward reconciliation.
"Today, Indigenous children can go to school in their own community, learn and speak their own language wherever and whenever they want. And now they have the opportunity to further their educations, something I didn't have when I was growing up."
Simon was one of the speakers at the Miyo-wiciwitowin Day event, which aimed to bring together 10,000 students, business leaders and members of the public.
The organizing committee said the day's name draws on a Cree phrase that means "walking together in a good way," or reconciliation.
The event was meant to educate people ahead of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, also known as Orange Shirt Day, on Friday.
Other speakers included RoseAnne Archibald, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations. The event also featured survivor stories and performances from Indigenous artists.
On Wednesday, Simon visited the James Smith Cree Nation northeast of Saskatoon, where members continue to grieve loved ones killed in a stabbing rampage earlier this month.
Cowessess First Nation Chief Cadmus Delorme encouraged students to not forget about that community, adding that the path to reconciliation is at everyone's kitchen table.
Last year, 751 unmarked graves were discovered at the site of the former Marieval Indian Residential School at Cowessess.
"As Indigenous people, we don't want pity. We don't want anyone to feel sorry for our history," he said Thursday. "We all inherited this. But when you inherit something, you have a responsibility to do something about it."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 29, 2022.
Mickey Djuric, The Canadian Press
Note to readers: This is a corrected story; An earlier version had an incorrect location for the day school Gov. Gen. Mary Simon attended.