Editor’s Note: Justice Murray Sinclair, who chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission investigation into residential schools in Canada, was appointed as a Senator in March by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. After a moment of silence on the Senate floor on Monday June 13 for the victims of the Orlando massacre, he opened up about his “openly gay” daughter, the family’s acceptance of her and other two-spirit people, and the amplified dangers she faces as an indigenous woman.
First, according to the meeting minutes, Speaker George Furey asked for a minute of silence in memory of those who had lost their lives.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families and friends, and all those affected by this terrible act of violence,” Furey said, after which the senators “stood in silent tribute,” according to the Senate website. Then Sinclair got up and spoke.
Hon. Murray Sinclair: Honourable senators, shortly after midnight on Saturday night, our openly gay daughter sat and laughed with us, as my wife and I and her sisters sang her Happy Birthday, badly I might add, as all families do, but with huge amounts of love. She turned 33 on Sunday, June 12.
At almost the same moment, an American filled with hate for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgendered, queer and two-spirit people carried his legally purchased machine gun and pistol into a bar in Orlando, Florida, and started killing everyone he could.
Eventually, over a period of three hours, he hunted down all those he could find in the bar and killed 49 young men and women, whose only reason for being targeted was that they were celebrating Pride month and were openly gay.
Much has been made of the shooter's connection to Islamic terrorism and his ability to purchase, own and carry guns, despite his history of mental disturbance and violence. American politicians and others will line up in one camp or the other to denounce those who they say caused this to happen, whether close at hand or remote. The number of political footballs this event presents for use is significant. You need only look at the headlines today to get a flavor of that.
But yesterday and today, I thought only of the 49 mothers and fathers whose hearts are broken and whose lives have been torn asunder, and I think every day of the fact that I could have been and could be one of them. I think of the dozens of brothers and sisters born into the victims' families, whose anger and tears may never end, and I think of the fact that my other children could be among them also.
Society's dislike and disrespect for those who are gay and transgendered has been a part of Western thinking for many generations. The enhancement and recognition of their right to be who they are and their right to public protection of those rights does not sit well with far too many people, the shooter in this case being representative of that.
When my daughter spoke to us as a young teenager of her recognition of who she was, we stood beside her and gave her every assurance of our love and of her right to be open about what she was.
What my wife and I could not bring ourselves to discuss with her, or between ourselves, at that moment was that she had just enhanced her risk of danger. She was already living a life of enhanced danger just by being female. That danger was increased by the fact that she was in a higher at-risk group because she was an indigenous woman.
We told her about the fact that among Indigenous people, being a two-spirit was traditionally a position of respect and honor. Ceremonies, we have been taught, are enhanced if done by or with two-spirit people present, for it is believed that they embody the strengths and spirits of both man and woman and bring a special healing power and medicine to every special event.
She has brought great respect to our family. We are said to be blessed by having her as a daughter because she is two-spirit, and we feel so. We adopted another two-spirit daughter into our family as well, whose partner just gave birth to our newest grandson. He will be raised by two-spirit parents.
As parents of two-spirits, we want to protect our children from the bullying, the offensive comments, the disparaging remarks and the physical and verbal abuses that every member of the LGBTQ2S experiences. We have learned to shield them and to heal them when our shields prove insufficient.
What we fear the most is that someone will murder them just for being gay. The belief that such an event could occur would be enough for many to discourage their children from coming out, and it would also discourage the children themselves.
So in our moment of silence, I thought of the parents. We as a society have all lost something as a civilized people in this act of mass murder, but they have lost more than we can ever know.