June is Indigenous History Month, a time to celebrate the history, heritage, and diversity of Indigenous communities. This month also marks the 24th anniversary of National Indigenous Peoples Day, held annually on June 21st.
This month we recognize the contributions of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. We honour their strength and courage in the face of attempts to erase their cultures and express our gratitude for their stewardship of the environment for millennia. We also pause and reflect on the enduring legacy of colonization and re-dedicate ourselves to the promise of reconciliation.
CUPE Ontario is fighting for the inclusion, self-determination, and public services of Indigenous communities. The CUPE Ontario Indigenous Council promotes the engagement of Indigenous workers in our union year-round. With the Council’s guidance, we are raising awareness about the lack of clean drinking water in Indigenous communities through the Water Connects Us campaign. We support the efforts of CUPE Locals to achieve recognition for the experiences of Indigenous people as part of the hiring process in bargaining with their employers. Furthermore, we encourage all Locals to read a land acknowledgement of traditional Indigenous territory before meetings.
Our union also continues to support the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) Sisters in Spirit vigils, which raise awareness about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Our union is striving to educate our members about the legacy of the residential school system and the ongoing harm Canada’s assimilationist policies have on Indigenous peoples.
CUPE Ontario will remain vocal in condemning the anti-Indigenous policies of the provincial Conservative and federal Liberal governments. The Ford Conservatives’ firing of employees at the Indigenous Culture Fund, weakening of the Indigenous high school curriculum, and merger of the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation into Energy, Northern Development and Mines, all represent clear threats to reconciliation.
At the federal level, the Trudeau Liberals must stop paying lip service to reconciliation and move swiftly to fix problems such as overrepresentation of Indigenous children in foster care, underfunding for Indigenous public services, a lack of clean water and infrastructure on reserves, chronic violence against Indigenous women and girls, and institutional discrimination against Indigenous people, among others.
Throughout June, CUPE Ontario encourages members to take some time to learn and reflect on the ongoing harm caused by colonialism and Canada’s treatment of Indigenous peoples. We echo CUPE National in calling on all members and locals to do the following:
- Read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Final Report and consider how you can support the calls to action.
- Invite a speaker to your next teleconferencing meeting to talk about truth and reconciliation.
- Read CUPE’s response to Final Report by National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
- Make employment equity a bargaining priority.
- Ensure a workplace that welcomes Indigenous workers by bargaining collective agreement language that responds to their needs.
- Acknowledge Indigenous territory at all of your meetings, and reach out and forge partnerships with local Indigenous communities and organizations.
- Sponsor and promote Indigenous events and advocacy.
Workers in communities across Ontario have an active role to play in recognizing the history of Indigenous communities and engaging in meaningful actions towards reconciliation. During this Indigenous History Month, we encourage all CUPE members to join us in living up to those sacred responsibilities.