What Now? A Reflection on young Indigenous lives and reconciliationFriday, March 9th, 2018 | Geneviève Vallerand
For a number of years, Community Foundations of Canada has been exploring and advancing the idea of “belonging” as a guide for our work. We know through our networks, our relationships and our research that we cannot have a Canada where everyone belongs if we do not, together as Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, create equal opportunity for everyone of this land. At Community Foundations of Canada, we remain steadfast and resolute in our commitment to reconciliation and justice for Indigenous people in Canada. We know we must continue learning and listening and that this is not work we can do without acknowledgment of our shared past and understanding of truth.
Like so many people and organizations across Canada in the last month, we have been following the stories of two young Indigenous people, Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine. Our thoughts have been with their families, loved ones and communities.
Their stories tell us so much about colonialism in Canada, our sustained practice of failing young people, and the continued systemic inequalities that exist between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in our country. For the past several weeks, we have been doing the work of asking what these verdicts mean and if we need to speak out, why, how and what do we say?
We know that we cannot move towards reconciliation until we grapple with these truths and make massive changes across our institutions and our culture. We’ve been listening, reflecting, learning with and from our partners, Indigenous and non-Indigenous leaders in our movement and in our communities.
Our conversations have sparked more questions than they have answers. How can we be better allies in support movements for justice and equity for Indigenous peoples and all Canadians? How can we engage in meaningful action with Indigenous individuals and communities, sustain our efforts and ensure that we effect change in our networks that contributes to more positive outcomes and greater justice?
Perhaps the most important thing we can say and do right now is to give voice and lend our support to leaders and efforts in the community towards greater justice. We know that the journey towards reconciliation is inhibited when we face circumstances like these, when communities face tension, division, discouragement and anger. As Dr. Cindy Blackstock, advocate, researcher and Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society has said:
“What I don’t want to see is another generation of First Nations adults having to recover from their childhoods as so many survivors of the residential schools have had to do. As a country we need to do better than continuing this longstanding pattern of discrimination against First Nations children, young people and their families. They deserve equality going forward…The role of the public is really critical. Reconciliation to me is about not having to say sorry a second time.”
While we do not have all the answers, we do firmly believe that belonging is only possible when we take actions to address injustice and inequity.
For philanthropic organizations, there are a few concrete actions that we can take
- There are 85 signatories to The Philanthropic Declaration of Action, a collective commitment made during the closing session of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in Ottawa. Signatories pledged, among other things, to work towards reconciliation and the implementation of the spirit, intent, and content of the TRC’s recommendations and to ensure that the philanthropic community is engaged in the work of reconciliation. If you are a philanthropic organization interested in making a difference and have not yet signed on, consider adding your name.
- Connect with organizations who are specifically organized to foster change and align relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada. They include: 4Rs, The Circle on Philanthropy and Aboriginal Peoples in Canada, Canadian Roots Exchange, Reconciliation Canada, First Nation Child and Family Caring Society
They each provide different tools and useful guides for exploring this work in your organization or community. Here are a few:
- Guides for beginning the conversation in different settings
- Follow the www.4rsyouth.ca website and its Facebook group which are full of events, articles, resources and opportunities for capacity building.
- Consider participating in or hosting a blanket exercise. Ask for support facilitating this process.
- Get reading to better understand the history of this land, including the history of Indigenous and non-Indigenous relations, residential schools and the 60s Scoop. There are a number of excellent resources on the subject that every Canadian should read. Here are a few examples:
- The work of the TRC:
- Calls to Action,
- Executive Summary
- Survivors Speak
- The Inuit Truth & Reconciliation process, Moving Toward Saimaqatigiingniq
- Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death and Hard Truths in a Northern City by Tanya Talaga (House of Anansi Press, 2017)
- The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King (Penguin Random House Canada, 2012)
- Find other titles using The Circle’s reading list
- The work of the TRC:
- Take the time to learn about the history and culture where you are. Find out what Indigenous territory you live in and the history of that Nation(s) before Canada became a country. Reflect on your own ancestral journey which led you to be able to call Canada your home. What is your relationship to colonization? To reconciliation? What treaties may you be party to? What conversations or local actions are taking place nearby?
We hope that some of the above resources and suggestions may be helpful to you, your organization or community and help to inspire wider discussion and dialogue on this important subject.
Ian Bird and Andrew Chunilall
Featured image of Carey Newman’s Witness Blanket, as shown at Belong 2017.