Reconciliation between Canada and its Ingenious peoples is happening but there is more work to be done, but "we've come a long way" Gina Wilson told a capacity crowd at the Famous 5 Enbridge Speaker Series event on April 5.
Wilson, Associate Deputy Minister of Public Safety and most senior First Nations woman in the federal public service, was honoured as a Nation Builder in the spirit of the Famous 5 at a sold-out event held at the Rideau Club.
Ms. Wilson was welcomed with enthusiastic applause to Canadian Indigenous artist Buffy Sainte-Marie's song "Starwalker."
Ms. Wilson spoke of the powerful women in her life, most notably - her grandmothers, as her inspiration throughout her life and that despite wanting to leave her community of Kitigan Zibi as a teenager for the big city, she always made her way back.
She told the crowd that as a young woman, she realized that doing well academically and working hard would always work out in her favour, and it has. Ms. Wilson also noted "Indigenous women are the most resilient people."
She urged everyone to support young Indigenous people and that she has committed to doing this in her career. Gina Wilson spoke of career highlights such as working on crafting the apology to Indian Residential School survivors.
The evening was kicked-off by moving remarks by the Famous 5 Ottawa Norton Rose Fulbright Mentorship Program recipient, Ashlyn Quesnelle. Ashlyn currently works at Canadian Heritage but started her career at Public Safety Canada, where she first met Gina Wilson. Ashlyn recalled how Ms. Wilson always made time to connect with her, which made a lasting impression and gave her confidence.
Noting that Ms. Wilson has fought to break down barriers for Indigenous people, despite her “ladder to the top being twice as steep and twice as long,” Ashlyn noted that Gina never lost her connection to her community of Kitigan Zibi.
Roxanna Benoit, Vice President of Public and Government Affairs at Enbridge, applauded Famous 5 Ottawa for being the flagship for the Speaker Series.
Among the attendees were Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Senators Kim Pate and Marilou McPhedran, as well as several public servants.