A version of this article, written by Mojdeh Cox, Executive Director was published in the London Free Press on September 17, 2021.
The horrific legacy of residential “schools” and the paternalistic Indian Act are only two examples of the root causes of generational trauma haunting First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities.
The complex systemic oppression imposed on Indigenous peoples in Canada is not a challenge of the past. Mass incarceration, distinct gaps in pay equity, lack of access to quality education and meaningful employment, and insufficient infrastructure, including a lack of access to clean water in many Indigenous communities, illustrates the extent of marginalization experienced by Indigenous people.
In the lead-up to the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, here are three reasons why we have a collective responsibility to centre reconciliation when we hit the polls on September 20:
Equity begins and is sustained by reconciliation
Reconciliation is foundational if we want to transform harmful systems and achieve equity for all equity-deserving people.
Without the understanding that the work of equity must begin and be sustained by bold steps towards reconciliation, much of our efforts for equity will be in vain.
How can we continue to advance in addressing gender-based violence for all women and gender-diverse people when Indigenous women and girls, comprising only 5% of the population, account for 14% of national homicides?
Colonialism is at the core of all equity issues and if we do not collectively take action through authentic, bold, and sustainable reconciliation, we won’t begin to even scratch the surface.
Past failures in not following through with promises on reconciliation mean time’s up!
We’ve been here before when governments make promises, invest in research, and extensive consultation only to sit on recommendations and action towards reconciliation. Let’s revisit elections past for a review of broken promises:
The plight of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, two-spirited people, and their relatives are consistently ignored. Countless calls for justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, two-spirited and gender diverse people began well before the release of the final report of the inquiry released in 2019. This report delivers 231 Calls for Justice, including pleas for basic rights such as the ask for governments at all levels to eliminate the social, economic, cultural, and political marginalization of Indigenous women, girls, and gender diverse people when determining government activities and priorities - calls which have not been met.
We must own up to the insufficient progress on TRC Calls to Action. We have seen the lack of accountability in delivering on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action - since 2015 only 13 of 94 actions have been completed. Six years in, how can we say we have truly prioritized reconciliation at this rate?
Water is life but only for lives that matter. Alarmingly, but not surprisingly to those informed, there are 43 long-term water advisories in effect across 25 communities in Ontario, including the nearby nation of Oneida of the Thames where 546 households are affected. Chippewas of the Thames, also neighbouring London, dealt with a boil water advisory this year, just ended August 23. The initial 2015 promise was to end all boiled water advisories by 2020.
Inaction towards reconciliation is complicity
Inaction on reconciliation translates to the ultimate betrayal of complicity and it is a difficult truth to accept. In the spirit of true reconciliation, trust must be at the heart of individual and collective action, yet trust is complex in the context of historical, multigenerational, and intergenerational trauma caused by 150+ years of oppression.
Entire nations of the first peoples of this land are declaring deep pain and suffering. We cannot afford a single day, let alone four years of fumbling our way around reconciliation and the hard work involved in building trust.
This upcoming federal election let’s send a clear message to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities: you matter; and while we reap the benefits of this land that was appropriated generations ago, we will collectively aim to reconcile with you and all your relations in a good way.
We must centre reconciliation this federal election and do our part to ensure that the current and future commitments of our government don’t equate to more empty promises.