A celebration of Indigenous communities, a call to action for settlers
Publication DateFriday, August 9, 2019 - 3:15pm
Friday is the UN’s International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, a time for OPSEU and its members to celebrate Indigenous culture and languages, while renewing our urgent call for governments, organizations, and employers to put meaningful reconciliation where it belongs: front and centre.
With a federal election in just two months, it’s time for us to stop denying that hundreds of thousands people within Canada’s borders continue to suffer from a lack of resources, wealth, power and even the basic day-to-day needs like clean water and basic safety.
Now is the time for action. Sadly, we as a country remain unwilling to act:
- It has been nearly five years since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission delivered its 94 recommendations as a path towards justice for Indigenous people in our country – few of them have been acted upon.
- It’s been more than a month since The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls issued its final report, identifying the violence inflicted against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people, as genocide.
- It’s been 12 years since the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which Canada still refuses to ratify.
- It’s been decades since Indigenous communities in Ontario, like Grassy Narrows and Attawapiskat, have had water they could safely drink.
- It’s been a year since Premier Doug Ford eliminated a stand-alone Indigenous Affairs ministry, and just a month since his decision not to attend a summit of Indigenous leaders and Canadian premiers.
- And it’s been less than a month since Ontario’s Minister of Energy, Mines, Northern Development and Indigenous Affairs appeared on social media wearing a bullet-proof vest in one of his ridings with a large Indigenous population.
Truly embarking on the path to reconciliation is the right thing to do for Indigenous people – including Inuit, Métis and First Nations peoples – and also for all of us. With a focus this year on Indigenous languages, this year’s Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples shines a spotlight on the breadth and beauty of the cultures that have developed and existed on these lands for millennia.
We will all be stronger when we finally embrace these cultures and languages after centuries of genocide.
At OPSEU, we are not waiting for governments to act. Our Indigenous Circle is a powerful voice that works tirelessly to build true partnerships with Indigenous communities to begin the long but vitally important task of reversing this country’s colonial legacies.
We encourage you to learn more about the Circle’s current campaigns:
- The ReDress campaign is focused on the implementation of the 230 recommendations of the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, working to create a wave of pressure on the federal government to provide justice for families.
- The June 21 campaign continues to work with MPP Sol Mamakwa and others in the legislature to make National Indigenous Day (June 21) a statutory holiday, with plans for legislative breakfasts and mini-Kairos blanket exercises in the late fall to educate MPPs about the legacy of colonialism.
- The Water is Life Campaign aims to pressure all levels of government through a member mobilization and lobbying campaign to protect community-controlled infrastructure including water and wastewater systems and social services in Indigenous communities.
We are more proud of the work OPSEU is doing with our Indigenous Circle to build respectful partnerships with Indigenous communities to preserve the languages and cultures of the original peoples of this land.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida
OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer