The discovery of an additional 751 unmarked gravesites near a former residential school in Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan is sickening and underscores the need for urgent action to deal with longstanding systemic issues that Indigenous people continue to face.
OPSEU/SEFPO stands in solidarity with Indigenous members, the Cowessess First Nation community and with Indigenous communities across Turtle Island. We extend our sincere condolences to the families and communities, past and present.
It’s likely more mass graves will be found in Canada. While we applaud the federal government in designating September 30 as a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, so much more needs to be done to even start to right these wrongs.
We can no longer remain oblivious to the calls to action that Indigenous communities have been asking for. For instance, Indigenous people are behind bars at higher rates compared to the overall population. Their children are over-represented in the child welfare system. Indigenous communities also face higher rates of poverty and struggle with fair and equal access to healthcare and affordable housing. And perhaps even more unbelievably, there are 51 long-term drinking water advisories active in 32 communities from coast to coast.
And while there are calls to cancel Canada Day celebrations this year, more concrete strategies to bring change must be implemented as a step towards healing the deep wounds left by the behaviour of those who came before.
We will continue to push governments and leaders of all political parties to immediately implement the six calls-to-action recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Report as outlined in the “Missing children and burial information” Action 71 to 76.
In fact, all 94 recommendations from the report must be acted on. To date, a mere 13 recommendations have been made a reality from a report that was released in 2015. This is unacceptable.
We must all come together to change the narrative, to leave a legacy to all of the children who will take over. They must be able to look back at this moment in time and be proud of their ancestors who were courageous enough to step up and be part of that change that truly paved the way towards reconciliation.
Warren ‘Smokey’ Thomas, OPSEU/SEFPO President
Eduardo ‘Eddy’ Almeida, OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer
Krista Maracle, OPSEU/SEFPO Indigenous Circle Chair
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