This September 30th 2021 marks the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
In making this day a national holiday, the federal government is implementing recommendation #80 of the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)’s 2015 Report. This day is “to honour Survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process”.
In May 2021, Canadians reacted with shock at the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves of children who attended former residential schools, yet the TRC had already estimated in 2015 that “well over 3,000 children died while at residential school” across Canada. As a nation, we are just starting to acknowledge and come to terms with the neglect, sexual abuse and violence that Indigenous children endured at the hands of the Canadian government and the Catholic church, and whose lives were cut short. The dark legacy of the residential schools lives on through the impacts on those who survived them, as well as on the communities whose children were forcibly taken away, one generation after another. The last federally funded residential school closed its doors in 1997.
These are not just stories from the past. Indigenous people continue to grapple with the systemic racism embedded in our institutions formed over the course of our long history of colonialism. Indigenous women and girls continue to be murdered at alarming rates – a rate 6 times higher than that of non-Indigenous women.
On the second anniversary of the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls published in 2019, the government recommitted in June to move forward with the implementation of a National Action Plan, and released the 2021 Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People National Action Plan: Ending Violence Against Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People and the Federal Pathway To Address Missing And Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls And 2SLGBTQQIA+ People.
Additional reports that were released alongside the National Action Plan, include:
- Native Women’s Association of Canada’s Our Calls, Our Actions
- National Family and Survivors Circle’s The Path Forward: Reclaiming Power and Place
- Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami & Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada’s National Inuit Action Plan
- Assembly of First Nations’ Breathing Life into the Calls for Justice
- Les Femmes Michif Otipemisiwak’s Weaving Miskotahâ
- Urban Sub-Working Group’s Urban Path to Reclaiming Power and Place, Regardless of Residency
- 2SLGBTQQIA+ Sub-Working Group’s MMIWG2SLGBTQQIA+ National Action Plan
- Congress of Aboriginal Peoples’s Interim Report
For September 30th to be meaningful, the hard work of reconciliation must advance in a collaborative manner, centering the knowledge and lived experience of Indigenous people. It must include self-reflection and accountability work on the part of Canadians and the government, as well as making necessary institutional changes to address structural racism and gender-based violence.
On this journey of reconciliation, much more must be done to uplift Indigenous voices, unlearn and relearn our history, rebuild relationships, practice accountability and cultural humility, and earn the trust and respect of the people who are guardians of this land which we have the privilege to call home.
Further reading on Indigenous rights and gender-based violence:
This 2021 report by Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society and the Yukon Status of Women’s Council explores Indigenous and racialized women’s health and safety in the extractive industry in Northern Canada.
This 2016 report and toolkit by Women’s Earth Alliance and Native Youth Sexual Health Network looks at destructive impacts of the extraction industry on the land and the connection to the health and safety of Indigenous women in North America.
This 2020 report and toolkit by Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada reconnects Inuit men with traditional activities and roles, with a focus on healthy relationships and healing.
This 2020 report by Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada looks at the ways in which the current policing model is not working for Inuit women and their communities.
This 2021 resource by the Native Women’s Association of Canada shared lessons from an Indigenous worldview and summarizes Canada’s colonial history and its impacts.
This 2020 report by Ontario Native Women’s Association sets forth recommendations to be incorporated into the National Action Plan.
This 2019 report by Women of the Métis Nation shares a Métis perspective on the violence experienced by Indigenous women and challenges the invisibility of Métis women in particular.