On National Indigenous Peoples Day we reflect on the diverse and culturally rich nations whose lands upon which we live and whose knowledge and relationships with the world from which we learn. We reflect on the fact that the settler colonial state of Canada has extracted and continues to extract great wealth from stolen and unceded land, benefiting from the dispossession of Indigenous peoples who were here before and are here now. And we renew our commitments to making reparations for past wrongs and addressing current injustices.
While the unmarked grave in Secwe̓pemc territory that held the bodies of 215 children – who were stolen from their families, deprived of their voices and ultimately from life in this world – is a heartbreaking, horrific reminder of the history of genocide, dispossession and violence upon which this country was built, we recognize that this history continues in the present and must be confronted with transformative action.
Modern day laws, policies and institutions perpetuate and reinforce systemic discrimination and violence against Indigenous peoples every day. The Crown continues to fail Indigenous children and families in many ways, including by providing discriminatory levels of funding for education and social services, and by continuing to remove children from their families and communities, continuing the cycle of cultural dislocation and making such children vulnerable to higher rates of violence, unemployment, incarceration and premature death. The Crown continues to ignore Indigenous sovereignty and self-determination over traditional territories that were never ceded or that were forcibly ceded under false promises that to date remain unfulfilled; and fails to meaningfully make space for self-determination initiatives on ceded treaty lands. Many Indigenous peoples are unable to meaningfully exercise basic socio-economic rights, facing a continued lack of equal access to clean water, healthcare, and adequate housing. Indigenous women continue to face extreme levels of violence and neglect at the hands of police and the criminal justice and health care systems. Indigenous women face a significantly higher gender pay pap at 45% compared to 30% for women on average. First Nations women and their descendants continue to wait years to (re)obtain status under the Indian Act wrongfully stripped from them by the state on account of gender. Indigenous peoples continue to be incarcerated at appallingly high rates and for disproportionately long sentences. The Crown has failed to date to meaningfully implement recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Aboriginal Justice Implementation Commission, and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. The list goes on.
There is much work to be done as individuals and collectively. We recognize and raise our hands to the Indigenous Elders, land and water protectors, and change-makers whose ways of being, teachings and practices are central to healing and realizing the many calls to action and for justice. Settlers in Canada can and must do better.
Honour the treaties.
Land back now.
No more silence.
No more words without action.
Indigenous lives matter.