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Chief Perry Bellegarde: Reflecting on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Chief Perry Bellegarde: Reflecting on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Today, I offer my sincere condolences to the souls of all who did not return home from their Indian Residential School.  And I lift up the enduring spirits of every former student of the Indian Residential School system, including my father, Charles Bellegarde. I offer comfort to all of our relatives who live with what happened at those institutions.

In the spirit of truth, it is my greatest hope that each and every one of us opens our minds and hearts to the spirit of reconciliation.

In the spirit of reconciliation, it is my greatest hope that we open our minds and hearts to forgiveness.

In the spirit of truth and reconciliation, may we become all who we can be, together, to right past wrongs, as challenging as this may be and for as long as it takes.

Perry Bellegarde

National Chief, Assembly of First Nations (2014-2021)

Chief Perry Bellegarde has dedicated his life to championing the rights and well-being of First Nations. For 35 years, he has held various First Nations leadership roles, including two terms served as the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN).

As National Chief, Chief Bellegarde campaigned tirelessly to close the gap in the quality of life between First Nations and other families in Canada. He led the AFN through a period of profound transformation in public awareness of First Nations concerns and priorities.

Critical accomplishments include the passage of Canada’s first national legislation recognizing and protecting Indigenous languages, much needed changes in how government services in First Nations communities are funded, and securing a legal commitment to national implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

A member of Little Black Bear First Nation, Chief Bellegarde credits the wisdom shared by the First Nations Elders of Saskatchewan for instilling in him a deep sense of pride in his culture, as well as a lasting conviction that Indigenous knowledge and values are crucial to building a more just and inclusive society. He believes passionately that at the heart of the original Treaty relationship sits a vision of peace and friendship that is the key to building a better and brighter future for Canada.