June 21, 2023 marks the 27th annual National Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada. On this day, we recognize and commemorate the history, heritage and diversity of First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples across our country.
Canada's Indian Residential School (IRS) system is a dark chapter in our nation's history. The mistreatment of Indigenous children in these schools was pervasive and systematic, and its legacy will remain with us forever. We must take action to educate ourselves about the history of the IRS system, dismantle systemic racism, and support Indigenous communities.
We must also strive to prevent future atrocities by taking steps towards reconciliation and healing. This includes recognizing the truth about Canada’s past, understanding the ongoing impact of colonialism on Indigenous communities, and actively working to create a more equitable society for all Canadians.
The story of Indigenous people in Canada is a compelling journey filled with moments of inspiration, peace and friendship intertwined with tragedy, sorrow, pain and heartbreak. It is a story that predates the formation of Canada itself by millennia and has survived despite the darkness that has surrounded it for so long.
It is a story of resilience and strength, of courage and hope. It is a story that must be told so that we can learn from it and continue to build upon it for generations to come. Indigenous people in Canada have persevered through centuries of oppression and marginalization, yet they remain strong in their culture, traditions, language, and identity.
It is time to recognize their contributions to our society today as well as those made by their ancestors before them. By doing this we can ensure that Indigenous people will continue to thrive in Canada. By recognizing this special day, we can come together to learn more about our past and move forward towards a more inclusive future.
We can all take part in educating ourselves about Indigenous culture by visiting galleries that feature Indigenous Art work or read and discuss the relevance of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action. We can also discuss the relevance of these topics today with our peers and family members.
10 Principles for Truth + Reconciliation to inspire us to take action:
- The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is the framework for reconciliation at all levels and across all sectors of Canadian society.
- First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples, as the original peoples of this country and as self-determining peoples, have Treaty, constitutional, and human rights that must be recognized and respected.
- Reconciliation is a process of healing relationships that requires public truth sharing, apology, and commemoration that acknowledge and redress past harms.
- Reconciliation requires constructive action on addressing the ongoing legacies of colonialism that have had destructive impacts on Aboriginal peoples’ education, cultures and languages, health, child welfare, administration of justice, and economic opportunities and prosperity.
- Reconciliation must create a more equitable and inclusive society by closing the gaps in social, health, and economic outcomes that exist between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians.
- All Canadians, as Treaty peoples, share responsibility for establishing and maintaining mutually respectful relationships.
- The perspectives and understandings of Aboriginal Elders and Traditional Knowledge Keepers of the ethics, concepts, and practices of reconciliation are vital to long-term reconciliation.
- Supporting Aboriginal peoples’ cultural revitalization and integrating Indigenous knowledge systems, oral histories, laws, protocols, and connections to the land into the reconciliation process are essential.
- Reconciliation requires political will, joint leadership, trust building, accountability, and transparency, as well as a substantial investment of resources.
- Reconciliation requires sustained public education and dialogue, including youth engagement, about the history and legacy of residential schools, Treaties, and Aboriginal rights, as well as the historical and contemporary contributions of Aboriginal peoples to Canadian society.
Here are some additional resources to read and educate themselves on various topics that impact Indigenous populations across Canada: