Canada’s unions are marking the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day on September 30, by calling for greater accountability and action from the government to fulfill its promises on reconciliation.
“Today we must all take time to remember and honour all the Indigenous children taken from their homes, families, and communities to be sent to residential schools, where they faced mistreatment, violence and abuse. No child should have to endure these atrocities, nor should any community have to experience the fallout of these racist policies,” said Bea Bruske, President of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC).
Approximately 80,000 residential school survivors are still alive today. The trauma inflicted by the residential school system has had far-reaching and devastating impacts on survivors, their families, and Indigenous communities more broadly.
“While residential schools closed, the impacts of the system remain, and the horrors of the residential school system are echoed in current government policies. This includes the use of birth alerts, the underfunding of child and family services on reserves, and the over-representation of Indigenous children in the child welfare system. Indigenous children, workers, and communities deserve better, and it’s long past time for these injustices to be righted,” said Lily Chang, CLC Secretary-Treasurer.
For survivors, their families, and the families of the children who never made it home, the traumatic impacts of the residential school system continue to be felt today. The ongoing discovery of the graves of thousands of Indigenous children at former residential schools, and the slow degree to which action has been taken to release records on residential schools to survivors and their families, creates additional trauma for community members.
In order to redress the legacy of colonization and advance the process of reconciliation in a meaningful way, it is imperative that the federal government address the harms caused by the residential school system, as well as the colonial policies and practices that have and continue to have devastating consequences for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples.
This is why on October 3, 2023, workers from across Canada will be heading to Parliament to meet with Members of Parliament and Senators as part of CLC’s second National Indigenous Lobby Day. There they will urge lawmakers to take action on Indigenous justice, including:
- Addressing the harms caused by the residential school system by implementing, without delay, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action 71 through 76: Missing Children and Burial Information;
- Providing appropriate funds and resources to support the development of essential publicly delivered water infrastructure and ensuring the elimination of all long-term boil water advisories in First Nations communities;
- Immediately creating a national Red Dress Alert system to notify the public when an Indigenous woman, girl, or Two-Spirit person goes missing;
- Releasing an implementation plan for the government’s National Action Plan, and accelerating fulfilment of all the Calls for Justice from the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two-Spirit people; and
- Along with the government of Manitoba, prioritizing and adequately funding a search of the landfills to return Marcedes Myran and Morgan Harris of Long Plain First Nation, and Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe to their loved ones without further delay.
Show your solidarity and join the calls by signing our action letter and letting your MP know that you want to see concrete action for justice for Indigenous communities!
Other ways to take action on this day and beyond:
- Visit CLC’s Indigenous Rights and Justice Resource Centre, for information and resources on tangible actions you can take to support Indigenous workers in your workplace, union, and community.
- Find and join an event or action in your area to commemorate Orange Shirt Day and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (example in Ottawa).
- Wear orange to show your support for Indigenous communities impacted by residential schools.
- Donate to and support Indigenous organizations and Indigenous community supports such as the Indian Residential Schools Survivor Society, and First Nations Child & Family Caring Society.