When the Federal government legislated a National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, CUPE Ontario saw this as a long overdue but important step toward reconciliation. As the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission indicate, the work of reconciliation is an enormous undertaking that requires deep commitment and careful reflection.
Sadly, Canada has been failing in this regard. In 2020, the Yellowhead Institute reported that, of the 94 Calls to Action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, only 8 have been implemented. Most recently, here in Ontario, the Ford Conservatives failed to formally recognize the day as a provincial statutory holiday, breaking from the steps taken in British Columbia, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia.
Clearly, we must do better.
September 30th 2021, the first-ever National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, would not be possible without decades of efforts led by Indigenous activists. Against all odds, Indigenous activists have preserved Indigenous cultures in the face of ongoing colonial violence.
Within our union, the CUPE Ontario’s Indigenous Council has spent many years working to build community, combat discrimination, and raise awareness of issues such as drinking water advisories, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and mercury levels in Grassy Narrows. In 2019, the Council adopted the Orange T-shirt campaign, a campaign that has been critical in raising awareness about the horrors of residential schools.
“Spend the day educating yourself, check out what is happening in your community, reflect, and remember the significance of Orange Shirt Day,” says Dawn Bellerose, Chair of the CUPE Ontario Indigenous Council. “Today is a day to reflect.”
As we honour the first ever National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, we must reflect upon the decades of Indigenous activism that brought us to this point and the ways that we—in our homes, our lives, and our communities—can aid in the pursuit of reconciliation.