Federal Indigenous minister visits Akwesasne on National Day of Truth and Reconciliation

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By Nick Seebruch
Federal Indigenous minister visits Akwesasne on National Day of Truth and Reconciliation
Canadian Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller distributing food to Akwesasne residents on the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation on Thursday, September 30, 2021 (Nick Seebruch/ Seaway News).

AKWESASNE – Marc Miller, Canada’s Minister of Indigenous Services visited Akwesasne on Thursday, Sept. 30, the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.

Miller met with members of the community including local residential school survivors and Grand Chief Abram Benedict.

“Minister Miller was able to come to our community and do a tour of our community,” Benedict said. “At the meetings with the minister there were survivors there and he was able to talk to them first hand and hear what today means to them and some of their experiences.”

Minister Miller was at the A’nowara’ko:wa Arena on Akwesasne in the evening on Thursday to help community members distribute 250 meals to Akwesasne residents.

Seaway News asked Miller what today meant to him as Minister of Indigenous Services.

“This is a day where people like me should be doing more listening,” he said. “I know people, and rightly so, are asking more action and we need to do it, but this is also a time to think about the history of residential schools and the road ahead and that involves people like me listening, non-Indigenous people in Canada listening, and this was an opportunity to listen to survivors and listen to elders.”

Miller remarked that the legacy of residential schools was still being felt by the Akwesasne community.

“Akwesasne has a lot of folks that were taken and sent to residential schools or sent to day-schools and that is something that we need to acknowledge as well for even people in and around Cornwall that don’t still yet appreciate the impact of that,” Miller said.

“I don’t want to leave your readers that this is all negative, there are also very strong messages of hope that we’re hearing,” he added.

A significant impact on the daily lives of residents of Akwesasne is the location of the toll booth on the Seaway International Bridge and the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) checkpoint located in Cornwall. Despite living in Canada, Akwesasne residents have to pass through this checkpoint on a daily basis.

In the recent federal election, local candidates, including Conservative MP Eric Duncan, called the location of the CBSA checkpoint as being discriminatory against the residents of Akwesasne. Seaway News asked Miller if he agreed with that assessment.

“Its their lived reality on a daily basis of a border that was imposed on them and their peoples,” he said. “Obviously it isn’t ideal . . . I think there is some progress that has been made, and yes, it does discriminate.”

Benedict hoped that beyond Sept. 30 that Canadians would continue to learn about the history of the residential school system and promote calls to action for reconciliation.

Residential school survivors or their families who find themselves in distress because of their experiences can call the Residential School Crisis Line for support at 1-866-925-4419.

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