Canadian Human Rights Commission Beyond Labels Symposium Evening Reception


Notes for an address by
The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, PC, QC, MP
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

To the 
Beyond Labels Symposium Evening Reception
Ottawa, Ontario
September 27, 2017 

Check against delivery

Thank you, so much, Marie-Claude, for that kind introduction, and it is indeed a pleasure to be here, however briefly, tonight to support the fantastic work of the Beyond Labels Symposium. I’m really pleased that my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs Matt DeCourcey, is here to say a few words to you as well.

But first, I want to acknowledge the traditional territory of the Algonquin people and to express my sincere appreciation to the Canadian Human Rights Commission for not only organizing this event, but also for your ongoing work in promoting equality of opportunity, ensuring individuals are protected from any forms of discrimination, and for being a very strong and substantive voice for diversity and inclusion in our great country.

As has been alluded to, this symposium comes at a time where we’re celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Canadian Human Rights Act, but also the 150th anniversary of Canada, the 35th anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and Section 35 of the Constitution Act. And I think that events like this and milestones like this give us an opportunity to reflect on where we’ve come from, where we are right now, and where we want to go as we continue as a country to fulfill our goals, our essential mandate of ensuring human rights for everybody and as we move beyond labels.

So I love my notes, but I wanted to reflect maybe a little bit about my own reflections in this incredible period of time that we’re in as a country in terms of my own journey. And I know you benefited from hearing from some of my colleagues this morning, but I’m proud to come from the Musgamagw, Tsawataineuk, and Laich-kwil-tach people on the west coast of British Columbia. And I was raised by an incredible father and mother and extended family, particularly my grandmother Pugladee, who is the matriarch of our clan.

My traditional name is Puglaas, and my grandmother and my parents taught me to be proud of who I am, to always remember where I came from, and to understand and recognize the rights that I have in this country and to never forget it.

And my grandmother said, “If you work hard, Jody, if you have a plan, you can accomplish anything you want to accomplish,” and I believed her. And I still believe her, and it’s those teachings that have carried me throughout my life.

And I come from an Indigenous community that is very communitarian, and every single person in our community has a role to play. And if people are prevented from playing their role in the community, the community suffers.

So again, I bring this to my work as a proud Member of Parliament for the riding of Vancouver-Granville and certainly as the first Indigenous Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. I’m incredibly proud to be an Indigenous person in this country, but I’m equally proud to be a Canadian.

And as I reflected on the milestones that we are at right now, I think that we have an opportunity as a country looking to the next 150 years to again reflect on where we’ve come from, where we are right now, and where we want to go and how we define ourselves as Canadians. I believe that we need to ensure that we recognize the diversity amongst us, but know what fundamentally unites us in terms of equality and inclusion, in terms of compassion and the values that we all share in terms of wanting to move forward and take advantage of opportunities.

I am honoured to be in this position, to be able to be the champion of the Charter, to be able to ensure that the space that we have in this country ensures equality and inclusion. As Minister of Justice and as a member of the government, an example of where we can do more and we are doing more, I was incredibly proud – brought me to tears – when Bill C-16 passed Parliament last session. Thank you.

This is an opportunity that we were able to capitalize on, and capitalize on the incredible work that advocates and the trans community have been pushing for for years and years and years, and no longer is it acceptable to have discrimination in any form in our country.

And as the Minister, my reflections on where we’re at right now is I believe that we as Canadians are most comfortable and confident when we live in a caring and compassionate society under a legal and political system that will protect us regardless of our sex, regardless of our race, our national or ethnic origin, the colour of our skin, our faith, our age, our mental and physical abilities or our sexual orientation. It is my commitment to all of you amazing human rights activists that are gathered here to have these discussions that you have a champion in the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General of Canada and the champion as a proud Canadian from a small fishing community off the west coast of British Columbia.

And I want to just acknowledge the important work that the Canadian Human Rights Commission does. I’m grateful for the ongoing role that you play in bringing people together, in raising awareness and guiding people in finding and ensuring ways to equal opportunity for everyone. This symposium is a perfect example. Everybody in this room is a champion of human rights and anything that you do to ensure equality and inclusion in this country is important to ensure that we all collectively live up to what my grandmother told me, “Anything is possible if you work hard and you have a plan.” And every single person in this country has a role to play and we’re all going to be ensured that we commit to making everybody be able to achieve their dreams.

Thank you so much for all the work that you do. It really means a lot, and it propels me in my role. Gilakas’la. Thank you very much.


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