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The Borland Family

Honourable senators, I would like to pay tribute to the host families that billeted residential school students as we left the residential schools across Canada. The majority of students were placed in private homes in the towns and cities where we were to continue our high school. Most families didn’t know what we had undergone.

I had the great privilege and luck to be placed in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Borland in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. I still keep in touch with my host family and came to see Ian and Billie as my surrogate parents. They are 94 today. I was also welcomed by their children, Lorne, David and Doug.

I want to thank the Borland family for allowing me into their sacred space, their home and family. I lived with them for two years and was welcomed as part of the family.

Billie taught me what it meant to be truly accepted and integrated into a family unit, and what it meant to be in a safe environment mentally, physically, emotionally and psychologically. She folded us into the rhythm of the household while she immersed herself in our school lives. She renewed in me, in my memory and spirit, what hospitality and inclusiveness looked like — what I remembered from my childhood before I went to residential school.

Ian and Billie put up with my loud music and late nights. I’m sure I intruded into their lives, but they never made me feel a burden. They always remained patient and nonjudgmental. In many quiet ways, they let me know I was part of the family.

To this day when I visit Ian and Billie, we have conversations about the relationship between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, and they remain active in hiring Indigenous peoples in the shop they own in Portage.

Ian and Billie, you remain two of the most influential people in my life who have helped me to believe in myself, to be responsible for myself, to realize that I’m part of Canada and to know that I am loved and that I matter. Thank you for your love and commitment. It was only later in life that I realized what a comfort and guidance you were in my transition from residential school into society. You have been a critical touchstone in my life. I love you. Thank you.

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