Statement by Claudette Commanda, Algonquin Elder

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Moderator: Bonjour à tous. Welcome to the announcement and media availability for the launch of the inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. Sans tarder, laissez-moi vous présenter l'aînée algonquine Claudette Commanda who will deliver the opening prayer and introductory remarks.

Claudette Commanda: Bonjour, tout le monde. (Text in native language.) Welcome, everyone, here. (Text in native language.) I welcome each and every one of you here with an open mind, an open heart and a good spirit. I'm very honoured to stand here today for this very important historical event. And I will ask the Creator to bless this, this time. I will ask the Creator to lead us in a good way. (Text in native language.)

Creator, I ask that the ancestors of this land and the ancestors of all of the people are here with us today. Creator, I ask that the grandmothers and the grandfathers from the four directions join us today. We thank you, Creator, for your love and your kindness. And Creator, I ask that you uphold the people and you give them the strength and the courage and the wisdom that they need. Creator, we offer words of love and we remember in our prayers the families of our women and our girls. Comfort them, Creator, with your kindness and your love and we will embrace this work in a good way. For all people must come together with that one mind and that one heart and that one spirit as we move forward in serving the justice and the protection that our indigenous women so rightfully deserve and they so rightfully need. (Text in native language.)

Creator, please bless us with a good life. And thank you, Creator, for your love. Miigwetch.

Welcome to Parliament Hill and today's important announcement. My name is Claudette Commanda. I am pleased to be here today for this event. I am a member of the Algonquin Nation. I am an Algonquin Anishinaabe mother and grandmother, and I welcome you all to the ancestral Algonquin territory. I have dedicated nearly 30 years to promoting First Nations people, First Nations history and First Nations traditional rights, and I have done so in various forms. I've also been, and continue to be, a strong advocate for the rights of First Nations indigenous women and in raising the awareness on the violence against First Nations indigenous women and on the need for safety measures for justice and healing sought by First Nations indigenous communities.

The voices of our women, our girls, their families speak of healing, of justice and protection from all segments of society and from this country. It is time to hear their voices. It is time for justice, and it is time for action.

This issue is why we are gathered here today. Here in the Centre Block of Parliament Hill is Métis artist Christi Belcourt's beautiful stained glass window. Christi Belcourt, her artwork commemorates the legacy of Indian residential schools. The window sits above the members of parliament entrance into the lobby of the House of Commons, a reminder to all who enter to never forget. It bears an Ojibway Anishinaabe title, Giniigaaniimenaaning, which means The Spirit of Looking Forward for Those Yet Unborn.

I would also like to draw to your attention the quilt that has been generously donated to us today or loaned to us today called The Sisters in Spirit Travelling Quilt. It was created by Alice Williams, an Anishinaabe quilter and an advocate from the Curve Lake First Nation Ontario and includes contributions from indigenous women across Canada.

In the centre of this quilt is the Grandmother Moon square. Grandmother Moon provides us direction, strength and knowledge and wisdom, and it teaches us about the sacred role of women as life-givers. And we, the women, we are the hearts of our nations. The quilt provides a  poignant and symbolic reference to the strength and the solidarity of the indigenous women across this country.

Both of these artworks provide a powerful backdrop to today's announcement.

Yesterday, I was very pleased and honoured to participate in a traditional Anishinaabe ceremony with all three ministers who are joining us here today to honour the spirits of our women and our girls who are missing and who have been murdered.

We pause to reflect today on the serious and tragic incidents that continue to occur, incidents like the  discoveryand the death of a young indigenous woman in Alberta just recently this week. Our thoughts and our sympathies are with her family, her community and her friends. I would like to ask all of you to join me in observing a moment of silence as we remember all those lives that have been lost.

(Moment of silence.)

Claudette Commanda: I thank the ministers, all elders and all the many others involved for their strength, for their participation in today's event and in moving forward.

Thank you. Merci. (Text in native language.) And I end with saying thank you in the first and original language of this Algonquin territory, gitchi miigwetch.

I now introduce the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice. Merci beaucoup. Remember, love is free and hope is free. Thank you.

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