The National Day of Truth and Reconciliation on September 30 (often called Orange Shirt Day) is an occasion for all people in Canada to honour the victims and survivors of the so-called “residential school system.”
In reality, these institutions were a crucial piece of the genocidal white supremacist drive to assimilate Indigenous peoples by destroying languages, cultural practices and spiritual beliefs.
The origins of the Canadian state – an imperialist state – lie in the colonial seizure of Indigenous lands and the capitalist exploitation of the working class. These actions have brought vast wealth to a handful of billionaires, while bringing death and destruction to the First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples.
In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission reported that thousands of Indigenous children were known to have died in the residential schools, but that the actual total would be much higher. The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls reported similar findings. And as the entire world knows, the tragic discovery in recent years of hundreds of unmarked graves, at the sites of former residential schools, has shone a bright light on the impact of these genocidal institutions.
Justin Trudeau promised to fully implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action, but most these have not been carried out. At the same time, the government manages to find billions of dollars to spend on supporting the fossil fuel industry (including by sending armed police into Indigenous territory), on fighter bombers and other weapons of war, and on fighting the Canadian Human Rights ruling that Ottawa must equitably fund First Nations child and family services.
Having September 30 designated a statutory federal holiday is important, just as displaying an orange shirt is important. But so far, only a small number of provincial governments have made similar declarations, and this must change.
Furthermore, governments at all levels must be pressed to make the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation into an annual day that truly remembers and confronts the racist legacies of colonialism and capitalism in this country. It needs to be a day that helps mobilize united, mass actions to struggle for peace and justice.
September 30 should be a day when we all commit to the genuine equality of all nations within Canada and recognize the right of each to self-determination up to and including secession.
It should be a day when we press hardest for governments to recognize and implement the terms of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). We cannot stand idle as political and corporate leaders pay lip service to Truth and Reconciliation, while at the same time they impose new fossil fuel pipelines, mines, logging and other resource extraction projects on Indigenous peoples’ ancestral lands and waters.
People’s Voice urges all our readers to take part events which are being organized by Indigenous peoples for the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, and to renew our commitment to see the implementation of all 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the 231 Calls for Justice in the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls.
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