What's Your StoryWhat's Your Story

How one residential school survivor has seen Canada change between two Trudeaus

'This history needs to be front and centre and is not to be forgotten'

Canada 2017

November 08, 2017

Lana Lowe's mom met both prime ministers Trudeau — 49 years apart. (Lana Lowe)

Between the bookends of meeting both prime ministers Trudeau — in 1968 and 2017 — Lana Lowe's mother reflects on what's changed, and what hasn't, for Indigenous people.

Throughout 2017, we're asking Canadians, "What's your story?" Lowe, of Fort Nelson, B.C., shares hers. 

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My mom has the honour and distinction to have met both Prime Ministers Trudeau.

Lowe and her mom today. (Lana Lowe)

The encounters, nearly 50 years apart, have given her reason to reflect on Canada and the changes she's seen in her lifetime.

In June 1967, my mom was one of the first Natives to graduate in the B.C. public school system after bouncing around a series of Indian residential and day schools from age seven to 19.

In June 1968, she was attending Prince George College when Pierre Elliott Trudeau came to town on his election campaign. Mom, then 20-years-old, was selected to present Trudeau with a beaver fur hat. She says it was and honour and "like meeting a rock star… it was the days of Trudeaumania!"

Fast-forward 49 years.

On June 12, 2017, at a small reception in Ottawa, we had the opportunity to meet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ("Young Trudeau" my mom calls him).

She seized the moment, made her way through the crowd and grabbed "Young Trudeau" by both hands. Having his full attention, she told him that she had presented his dad with a fur hat 49 years ago and he had kissed her on both cheeks in gratitude.

Young Trudeau laughed a deep laugh and repeated his father's gesture. I captured the exchange on video. I love her reaction after meeting young Trudeau.

When my mom met Prime Minster Trudeau  0:11

My mom is an Indian residential school survivor and a patriotic Canadian. She has experienced the injustices that Canada and Canadians have inflicted upon Indigenous people first hand, yet she still sees the good in this country and believes that Canada is headed in the right direction.

We've come a long way and I think if we keep going the way we are, we are getting better.

When I asked her about the changes she's seen over the past 50 years from Pierre Elliott Trudeau's White Paper to "Young Trudeau's" reconciliation promises she said, "I've long ago accepted Canada for what it is. We've come a long way and I think if we keep going the way we are, we are getting better. But they can never forget how they treated us Indians. Canadians need to know, and it should never happen again — to anybody. This history needs to be front and centre and is not to be forgotten."

When I asked what it's like to meet both Trudeaus, she said, "Pierre Elliott Trudeau was more aloof, almost aristocratic. Young Trudeau was more open and approachable. They are both so charming, I felt like a young girl both times."