This is a year to ponder how and why we celebrate Canada Day, or if we should even celebrate it at all.
A long-overdue cultural reckoning is happening in Canada, sparked by the news of locating nearly 1000 unmarked graves, presumed to be Indigenous children who attended Residential Schools. Only 2 of 139 such schools have been examined so far.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) 2015 Final Report dedicated an entire volume to “Missing Children and Unmarked Burials,” yet many Canadians are only now taking notice of this dark and destructive part of our history.
There are innumerable statistics describing the historic and continuing effects that centuries of genocide — including Residential Schools — have had on Indigenous peoples in Canada. We already know some first steps to take toward reconciliation: implementing the 94 TRC Calls to Action. Sadly, six years after the TRC issued its Report, the majority of the TRC’s recommendations have not been implemented.
For Indigenous people, this year is only different, in that we now all know the truth. So, how can we celebrate while First Nations peoples are five times more likely to attempt suicide and three times more likely to die early, than all other Manitobans? Should we celebrate knowing non-Indigenous children are viewed as worthy of government investment in their education and health and well being, while Indigenous children are often excluded from similar funding regimes, further marginalizing them from enjoying the benefits of Canadian prosperity.
The groundswell of public attention this year offers an opportunity to enact policies that can create a more just Canada. At its heart, this is the vision of the Green Party of Manitoba.
Action on the part of every Canadian is urgently needed to right these wrongs. Implementing all 94 Calls, not one or the other, but all of them, together, finally, is the minimum we can do.
I have been paying attention to the important suggestions that many of you have made, such as:
- More cultural and mental-health support for survivors, and extended families of survivors who continue to struggle with the intergenerational impacts.
- Waiving fees to request death certificates to assist families to locate lost loved ones.
- More support for Indigenous led initiatives to identify, investigate, protect and honour Indian Residential School burial sites.
- Recognition that the current child and family services system is a continuation of the same patterns of thinking that resulted in Indian Residential Schools and the Sixties Scoop, with 90 percent of apprehended children in care being Indigenous. And more support to help keep families together.
This year, instead of dressing in red and white, please consider joining me and other Greens who will be wearing orange for July 1st’s Every Child Matters Walk. We will begin at Portage and Main at 1 pm, in solidarity with the children taken and the parents left behind. I believe in a Canada that can face its truths and reconcile with its difficult history. Together we can build a Canada to celebrate.