Today, David Zimmer, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, issued the following statement on the loss of Mushkegowuk Elder Marguerite Wabano:
“On behalf of the government of Ontario, I would like to extend my deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Marguerite Wabano, who passed away Friday evening at the age of 111.
Marguerite Wabano was a survivor of one of the darkest chapters in Canada’s history. At the age of seven, she attended St. Anne’s Residential School in Fort Albany. After two years at the school, her parents moved the family far into the bush, so that their children would not have to return.
Through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, we heard about how the residential school system caused intergenerational trauma, but Marguerite Wabano, known as Gookum to many, was a pillar of strength. She raised seven children and had 23 grandchildren, 77 great-grandchildren and 81 great-great grandchildren.
At the age of 104, she was given a seat of honour in the House of Commons for the Prime Minister’s 2008 national apology to residential school survivors.
Marguerite Wabano’s story, and her capacity to forgive, should remind us that for reconciliation to succeed, all of us need to understand the truth about our shared history with Aboriginal Peoples. That is part of Marguerite Wabano’s legacy.
My sincerest thoughts and sympathy go to her family, friends and the Nishnawbe Aski Nation.”