Celebrating National Indigenous People’s Day

National Aboriginal Day, now called National Indigenous People’s Day was officially announced on June 13, 1996 by former Governor-General of Canada, Roméo Leblanc. This was one of the few of the 440 recommendations from the 1995 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples to actually be implemented.

28 years later, there is much to celebrate as First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples celebrate their cultures, languages, histories and spiritual traditions. Coast-to-coast-to coast, Indigenous people will gather with other Canadians to honour the First People’s of Kanata who have survived all efforts to silence, suppress and stamp out their respective identities.

157 years after the birth of Canada, Indigenous people are more engaged – and successful – in advancing the inevitable move to self-determination and self-governance in taking control of and managing their own affairs – despite the obstacles that governments continue to put in the way. For 25 years after the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples released their report, Canada and society in general shelved the 440 recommendations and did nothing – except for a few token items.  Then on June 2, 2015 the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada issued their Summary Report with its 94 Calls to Action. 

What is different this time?

First, the Idle No More movement in 2012 galvanized public opinion against government policies that not only targeted Indigenous people but also infringed on the environmental rights of ALL Canadians. Second, The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s decision to wrap Indigenous culture, spiritual practices and traditions around the residential school survivor testimonies over their six-year journey ending in their 2015 report – actions that altered public perceptions of what being Indigenous meant. Third, organizations like CBC with Beyond94, Yellowhead Institute at Toronto Metropolitan University and Indigenous Watchdog have been committed to monitoring and reporting on the truth of reconciliation. Is it working or not? And if not, why?

Yes, there is lots to celebrate. Yes, Indigenous people have made major inroads in reclaiming their rightful place in Canada, not as as one of two “founding nations” but as the First Peoples of this land who welcomed the new English and French settlers into their societies to share the land and its wealth for future generations – as friends not rivals; as partners not adversaries.

Yes. June 21 is a day to celebrate the friendship and partnership between Indigenous people and all Canadians and the reshaping of Canada into a society that benefits all of its citizens.

And oh yes. What about those 94 TRC Calls to Action? As of today, 15 haven’t even started and a further 19 are stalled. That means fully 36% of the Calls to Action are in trouble. 

Yes. June 21 is a day to celebrate. But let’s not forget –  Reconciliation still has a long way to go.

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