Remarks on COVID-19, B.C. wildfires, and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples
Good morning everyone, it’s great to be here at Lansdowne Park today.
Normally, folks might be here to see the Redblacks play, or to shop at the farmer’s market on Sunday morning.
But right now, there’s another great reason for people to come by – and that’s to get their vaccine.
A few minutes ago, Mayor Watson and I stopped in at the clinic.
Even under the masks, you could see the smiles all around.
So I want to say thank you to everyone, not just here but across the country, who are doing their part by getting vaccinated.
And also, a huge shout-out to the nurses, doctors, volunteers, and staff who are doing such amazing work at getting doses into arms.
Today – this morning, in fact – I got my second dose, too.
I feel good. It’s the feeling above all of being safer, and very optimistic about the upcoming summer and the following fall.
And by being fully vaccinated, we help protect not only ourselves, but the people around us too.
Like everyone, I’m very much looking forward to start seeing all of my friends and family.
That is what’s waiting for us when we’re all vaccinated.
We will end this pandemic in Canada.
And we’ll end it because everyone is doing their part when it’s their turn to get vaccinated.
Canada is leading the world on vaccination.
Almost 80 per cent of eligible Canadians have gotten their first dose, and more than 35 per cent have also gotten their second. And every day we’re seeing these numbers go up.
We have to keep up the momentum.
As of today, a total of over 50 million vaccine doses have arrived in Canada.
And by the end of the month, we will have received 68 million.
In other words, we’re on a solid path toward a good summer and an even better fall.
We’re on the right track to end this pandemic in Canada.
That said, we’re not quite out of the woods yet.
Just take what’s going on in Yukon.
Despite being at over 86 per cent of eligible people with a first dose, and over 76 per cent with a second dose, they’re facing their biggest spike in cases right now since the pandemic began.
This is a reminder that we all have to keep being careful, and get as many people vaccinated as soon as possible.
Minister LeBlanc has spoken with Premier Silver, and we’re working with the territory on whatever we can do to help.
No matter where you live, we’ve got your back through this crisis.
From getting your second vaccine dose, to being able to reopen your small business, there are lots of reasons to feel happy right now.
And that’s important.
But we can’t forget that for far too many people across the country, the past few weeks have been very difficult.
I know we’re all thinking of British Columbians right now – in Lytton where wildfires have devastated the town, and across the province with the extreme heatwave.
Yesterday, I talked to both Premier Horgan, and Acting Chief Haugen of Lytton First Nation.
And later today, I’ll speak with Lytton’s Mayor Polderman.
We are here, as the federal government, as partners for whatever support people need.
Standing with the people of Lytton to rebuild and we’re continuing to work with the province to keep all British Columbians safe.
Later today, I’ll be convening the Incident Response Group with Ministers from my team, to address the needs of communities in B.C. hit by wildfires and extreme weather and take a look at what we expect, might a very hot, very dry summer with many wildfires.
As we do this, ministers will of course stay in close touch with all their provincial colleagues.
On Wednesday, news also came in from B.C. that more unmarked graves have been found near a former residential school.
To everyone in Ktunaxa Nation, and to all survivors, families, and Indigenous people, we’re here for you.
I can’t imagine your grief and your pain but we will work with you day in and day out, on whatever you need to heal.
On that note, yesterday, I had the chance to speak with Phyllis Webstad.
Phyllis is the founder and Executive Director of the Orange Shirt Society, which raises awareness about the legacy of the residential school system.
In fact, it was her story as a survivor that started the Orange Shirt initiative.
She told me how important it is that all Canadians know what happened at residential schools.
I want to recognize Phyllis’s courage and leadership.
People like her right across the country are leading the way forward by sharing their stories.
We must continue to listen.
We must acknowledge the truth and we must stand as partners and allies in building a better future.
Each new discovery of unmarked graves must strengthen our resolve to do better as a country.
Not only do we have to right the wrongs of the past, but we must also end injustices that exist today.
It is unacceptable that First Nation, Inuit, and Métis people continue to face racism and discrimination in the health care system.
It is unacceptable that the death of Joyce Echaquan happened here, in a country like Canada.
Everyone must be able to go to a hospital or a doctor and know that they will get the care and respect they deserve.
So, in partnership with Indigenous peoples, we are taking action to make sure that is a reality.
Earlier this week, Minister Miller and Minister Hadju announced that we are investing in everything from patient safety, to culturally safe services, to supporting Indigenous representation in the health care profession.
By working together with Indigenous communities – as well as health care partners and all levels of government – we’re taking concrete steps to end anti-Indigenous racism in our health care systems.
There’s still a long way to go, but in the past five years we have made progress.
We’ve lifted 108 long-term drinking water advisories and invested in classrooms for hundreds of communities.
Last week, we brought the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into law, and we’re working with Indigenous partners to ensure we meet the Declaration’s objectives.
And, as of last Monday, our new citizenship oath recognizes Indigenous rights.
We must continue this work.
Because each step forward brings us closer to a better, stronger country for everyone.