TORONTO — On the eve of Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, Ben Miljure finally received closure on a very personal journey: reconnecting with his long-lost mother, an Indigenous woman who was missing for decades.
As a journalist with CTV News Vancouver, Ben Miljure’s first obligation is to the truth.
And the moment he was forced to confront his own came last May, live on television.
The confirmation of 215 unmarked graves at a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C., was a gut punch to the country.
For Ben, it pierced open what he had kept hidden from those outside his inner circle.
He was recording a live stand-up in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery last May, in front of 215 tiny pairs of shoes, when his voice began to shake.
He later wrote that the tragedy hit too close to home.
“When the camera turned on and I opened my mouth to speak, I unexpectedly choked up, sobbing through my words as I struggled to maintain my composure,” Miljure wrote.
- Read more: ‘I, Ben Miljure, am an Indigenous man’: Kamloops tragedy a moment of truth for CTV News journalist
After the broadcast, he revealed that he is an Indigenous man through his mother’s side of the family — and that he hasn’t seen her since he was a toddler.
Miljure grew up in mostly foster care, unsure what had happened to his mother.
As a young adult, he began to reconnect to family members on his mother’s side, and now knows he is part of ‘Na̱mg̱is First Nation. Whenever new people came into his life, he would ask if they knew where his mother was, but no one knew.
But recently, the truth was finally discovered: his mother was alive, living in a care facility in Toronto with serious medical issues impacting her speech and memory.
This week, Miljure met her for the first time as an adult.
Describing the meeting to CTV News Chief Anchor and Senior Editor Lisa LaFlamme, he said he just said “hello.”
“My name is Ben, and I’m your son.”
And she “absolutely” knew who he was, he said.
“There was a very strong connection between me and my mother today,” he told LaFlamme. “She was really happy to see me. She was really engaged. She really appreciated hearing the stories that I told her about where I am and what I’m doing.”
He added that he showed her a picture of him on the job, with LaFlamme on election night.
“That was important to me,” he said.
Miljure said that being able to look at the woman who gave birth to him and say “Mom” out loud “felt fulfilling.
“I felt whole.”
For years, this meeting seemed impossible. Because her entire family had no idea where she was for twenty years. After she moved to Toronto in the early 1990s, she abruptly stopped calling home one day, and her family were unable to convince the police to take the case seriously.
“My mother was considered a missing or murdered Indigenous woman for almost two decades,” Miljure said.
Speaking to CTV News Vancouver in June, he explained that his mother “didn’t attend residential school, but she did attend Indian Day School, and that, I think, had a profound impact on her life.”
“Nobody knew where she was for a really long time. My aunt actually testified at the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and it was after that that the ball got rolling and more attention was paid to my mother’s case and she was located, something that I am very grateful for.”
Because of her medical condition, she was unable to express to her caregivers at the care home where she lived that she had family in British Columbia.
But she never truly forgot.
“I will carry forever in my heart the way her face lit up when I called her mom,” Miljure said.
For his entire life, he has felt disconnected from his heritage and unsure of how to reconnect.
“Now as a proud Indigenous voice, I want to use that to help other people share their stories,” he said. “To help other people find strength in knowing they are not alone in things that have happened in their lives — to them, their family members. And the trauma that has caused them to carry with them.
“I feel very fortunate to be in this position, which I consider a position of privilege now. To be able to share my story and to hopefully help others.”