We reflect on the challenges COVID-19 has placed on Canada’s Indigenous population as we mark the UN International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on Sunday, August 9.
The OPSEU Indigenous Circle encourages all OPSEU members to take part in a webinar planned for August 10, 9 am to 11 am on the theme “COVID-19 and indigenous peoples’ resilience.”
Webinar access and information available here: https://www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples/international-day-of-the-worlds-indigenous-peoples/2020-2.html
OPSEU President Smokey (Warren) Thomas says the solidarity union members show every day can help the world’s Indigenous communities cope with COVID-19.
“COVID-19 has a devastating impact on more than 476 million indigenous people around the world, but showing solidarity can bolster Indigenous resistance,” said Thomas. “OPSEU stands with Indigenous communities as they battle the effects of the pandemic.”
The OPSEU Indigenous Circle and the OPSEU Social Justice Fund have a strong track record on global Indigenous solidarity that includes:
- Participation in the October 25-28, 2016 Prior Learning Assessment Recognition (PLAR) Conference and visits with Mapuche communities in Santiago, Chile. This trip included a Meeting with Canadian Ambassador to Chile (Marcel Lebleu) on education, government, healthcare, culture and language, where the Ambassador expressed little knowledge of the existence of Metis in Ontario.
- All Circle members participated in the WIPCE Conference July 24-28, 2017 that included a presentation by two members of the Indigenous Mobilization Team.
- The Indigenous Circle-Maya Ki’Che partnership that includes the Guatemala Solidarity Tour (February 7-17, 2020), knowledge exchange in Toronto on November 1, 2019, a visit with Maya Ki’Che midwives at the OPSEU Head Office in March 2017, member Geri Kakeeway meeting with Mayan partners during a trip to Guatemala (February 6-18, 2017 ). Maya Ki’Che midwives attended the OPSEU Indigenous Water Ceremony and symposium (March 2, 2017) and led a workshop at the Indigenous Conference on Manitoulin Island (June 22-24, 2018).
- A Partnership with Horizons of Friendship to support Migrant Workers impacted by COVID, many of whom are Indigenous people displaced from Central and South America due to colonialism. The impact of COVID has been most severe on Indigenous and Black communities both in Canada and globally.
Indigenous Circle Chair Krista Maracle says more needs to be done to protect vulnerable Indigenous communities throughout the world and that “this effort begins at home by demanding that the Government of Canada move beyond lip service and revise all its laws to reflect the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, especially respecting the right to free, prior and informed consent.”