Toronto

Reports on Indigenous people show 'a lot of hurt remains,' historic gathering told

Ontario's lieutenant-governor told a "historic gathering" in Toronto on Wednesday that recent reports about Indigenous people in Canada show "a lot of hurt remains."

'There is so much that all we must do,' Ontario Lt.-Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell says

Ontario Lieutenant-Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell speaks at the annual conference of the Queen's representatives in Canada in Toronto on Wednesday. (CBC)

Ontario's lieutenant-governor told a "historic gathering" in Toronto on Wednesday that recent reports about Indigenous people in Canada show "a lot of hurt remains."

Speaking at the Chapel Royal of Massey College, Elizabeth Dowdeswell said continuing dialogue and listening are needed as the federal and provincial governments take steps toward reconciliation with Indigenous people.

Her remarks were made at the annual conference of the Queen's representatives in Canada. Gov. Gen. Julie Payette, lieutenant governors, territorial commissioners and Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, were there.

"The report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and its 94 calls to action, and more recently, the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and its 231 calls for justice, makes clear that a lot of hurt remains," Dowdeswell said on Wednesday.

"There is so much that all we must do, but particularly, those of us with a platform, if we are going to continue to be resilient in the years ahead."

Dowdeswell said the Queen's representatives can take a leadership role on big issues, especially in times of "heightened" cynicism.

The historic gathering began with the lighting of a sacred fire and a song by Elder Gary Sault of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. (CBC)

"We can foster dialogue, not just debate. Deliberation, not just consultation. Such civic engagement is fundamental to democracy, which, like reconciliation, is really about how we choose to live together," she said.

Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, told reporters after the gathering that it is historic because it brought together Indigenous leaders and representatives of the Crown. 

"Reconciliation goes to the heart of dialogue and listening, and that we have to continue to do," Payette said.

In a news release, the office of Ontario's lieutenant-governor said a ceremony at the gathering paid tribute to the "unique and enduring" relationship between the Crown and First Nations people.

The ceremony, similar to those that have taken place between Indigenous leaders and representatives of the Crown for centuries, began with the lighting of a sacred fire at sunrise. 

The Ontario Heritage Trust, an Ontario tourism ministry agency that works to protect Ontario's heritage, unveiled a commemorative blue plaque in English, French and Ojibwe to honour the event.