June 21st is National Aboriginal Day. This day recognizes the unique heritage, diverse cultures, and outstanding achievements of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples (the First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples).
This year, it will also be an opportunity to continue to reflect upon the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report and the next steps. As many of you are aware, the Commission released the Executive Summary of the report on June 2, 2015. This document unequivocally states that Canada’s historical policy towards Aboriginal peoples, residential schools being a central element of this policy, “can best be described as cultural genocide”.
The document also includes 94 calls to action that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission deemed crucial to address the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation. The calls to action include:
– the government of Canada jointly develop with Aboriginal peoples a Royal Proclamation of Reconciliation to reaffirm the nation-to-nation relationship between Aboriginal peoples and the Crown;
– a public enquiry into the more than 1200 Aboriginal women who have been murdered or gone missing be established;
– an annual “State of Aboriginal Peoples” report be developed;
– the government of Canada adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
– curricula describing the impacts of the residential school system be developed and delivered in all Canadian schools; and,
– a monument for survivors and all of the children who were lost.
As trade unionists and social justice advocates, we will no doubt have an important role to play in the coming days to ensure that the calls to actions are acted upon.
On this National Aboriginal Day, I encourage you to not only celebrate the many achievements of our Aboriginal brothers, sisters and neighbours but to also remember and pay respect to those who were lost to the residential school system and the many survivors.
Together, we can ensure that our past is not our future.
– Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Findings http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/index.php?p=890