2018 marks the 22nd anniversary of National Indigenous Peoples Day, held annually on June 21st.
Today we recognize and celebrate the contributions of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. We salute their strength and courage in the face of attempts to erase their cultures and express our gratitude for their stewardship of the environment over generations. We also pause to reflect on the continuing legacy of colonization and re-dedicate ourselves to the promise of reconciliation. To that end, CUPE Ontario is fighting for the inclusion, self-determination, and public services of Indigenous communities.
This year’s annual Action Plan, passed by delegates to the 55th CUPE Ontario Convention, urges all locals to read a land acknowledgement of traditional Indigenous territory before meetings. The plan also encourages support for the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) Sisters in Spirit vigils, which raise awareness about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
The CUPE Ontario Aboriginal 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. Moreover, CUPE Locals like 3902 Unit 1 have achieved recognition for the experiences of Indigenous people as part of the hiring process in bargaining with their employer. These actions represent a foundation we can build on in fulfilling the promise of reconciliation.
We call on politicians to stop paying lip service to reconciliation and move 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.
The recently elected Ford government’s lack of any clear policies on Indigenous issues is a clear example of the problem of political inaction. It is no longer acceptable to remain silent – enough is enough. On this day, we urge all political parties to present solutions to improve the well-being of Indigenous peoples and honour Canada’s commitment to reconciliation.