On June 21st—National Indigenous Peoples Day—we recognize and celebrate First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. As you spend your day drumming, dancing, and celebrating your rich cultures, we reiterate our call for all levels of government to make reconciliation more than an empty promise and reaffirm our solidarity with your struggle for self-determination, access to basic services, and social and environmental justice.
We are deeply disappointed in the Trudeau Liberals’ failure to guarantee Grassy Narrows mercury poisoning survivors the support they deserve. They have likewise failed to implement the 94 calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and failed to competently administer the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), refusing to endorse the inquiry’s finding of genocide.
These failures are compounded by recent moves by the Ford Conservatives to slash the Indigenous Affairs budget, eliminate the Indigenous Culture Fund, make Indigenous courses optional in the Ontario high school curriculum, and merge ministerial responsibility for Indigenous Affairs with energy, northern development, and mines. These policies reflect a culture of contempt for Indigenous peoples.
Government neglect is corresponding with a recent rise in hate crimes that have targeted equity seekers, including Indigenous peoples. Paired with the threat of climate change caused by our failure to responsibly develop natural resources and regulate pollution, Indigenous communities are finding themselves under attack on multiple fronts. We need to recognize that the status quo is unacceptable and the time for half-measures is over.
Rather than pay lip service to reconciliation, government at all levels must prioritize Indigenous issues, including the 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. Anything less than this continues the colonialism that shames our country’s name.
The responsibilities of reconciliation also fall to the labour movement. 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. Delegates at this year’s Convention passed resolutions calling on the Ford Conservatives to reinstate the Indigenous curriculum, advocate for an Indigenous Workers equity seat on the CUPE National Executive Board, and support the Moose Hide campaign to help stop violence against women and children.
We cannot allow the promise of reconciliation to go unfulfilled. On this Indigenous Peoples Day, CUPE Ontario members stand in solidarity with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people and pledge to hold politicians accountable and build a society that finally upholds and respects your rights.