June 21 is an occasion to celebrate Indigenous history, culture, and diversity, as well as the many contributions of Indigenous peoples to Canada. For non-Indigenous Canadians, and for organizations such as our union, it is also an opportunity to reflect on our history and role in the ongoing process of colonization in Canada. Importantly, it is a time to reaffirm that we will keep working in solidarity with Indigenous struggles for justice.
The recent heartwrenching discovery on school grounds of the remains of 215 children who attended the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc territory is a turning point for Canada. For too long, non-Indigenous Canadians have been happy to turn a blind eye to the structural injustices and violence faced by Indigenous peoples.
Despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s oft-repeated claim that “no relationship is more important to Canada than the relationship with Indigenous peoples,” his government has failed to prioritize progress on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action, released in December 2015. More than five years later, only 12 calls have been completed, and 20 have seen no progress at all. And despite Trudeau’s pledge to end all long-term drinking water advisories by March 2021, dozens of Indigenous communities still lack the basic human right of safe drinking water.
PSAC once again calls on the government to urgently fulfill its commitments to Indigenous peoples.
Our common survival depends on settler colonial culture moving away from valuing profit over people, allowing corporations to pollute the air and water and profiting off the suffering of our elders. In making this shift, we can learn from Indigenous worldviews, perspectives and knowledge and in turn lead with empathy and compassion.
Politicians at all levels of government need to know that non-Indigenous Canadians are in solidarity with Indigenous peoples. Decolonization and reconciliation are right for Canada. They are right because Indigenous rights are human rights.
Indigenous peoples need the voices of all Canadians to join with them to call for the justice and fairness that is so long overdue. Speak to everyone in your circle and help dispel harmful myths about Indigenous peoples. Educate yourself, your family, friends and your community about the intergenerational trauma experienced by Indigenous peoples. Be compassionate, learn and reflect. And then take action.
Webinar: Intersectionality and allyship with Indigenous peoples
PSAC invites you to our June 23 webinar on how we can work as allies with Indigenous Peoples. The panel will discuss how allies can best support decolonization and sovereignty for Indigenous Peoples.
This article has also been posted on the PSAC website.