In 2008, The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was set up to document the effects of residential schools on Indigenous people. In 2015, the Commission released a report with 94 Calls to Action. One action was the establishment of a statutory holiday by the federal government to honour residential school survivors, their families and their communities and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of reconciliation.
September 30 marks a sombre occasion to recognize Canada’s horrendous role in the residential school system and the abuse suffered by Indigenous children and families across generations. It is also a time to reflect on how to move forward and reconcile with these facts and the continued impacts of colonization. While many of us are familiar with the term, there may still be confusion over what it means and who is responsible for reconciliation.
Reconciliation is a complex, multi-faceted process that requires Indigenous history education for all. It is an acknowledgement of the intergenerational pain and suffering caused by residential schools. It is implementing ALL 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation report. And so much more.
The legacy of residential schools, day schools and “Indian hospitals” and colonialism continue to negatively impact Indigenous communities today. Indigenous children are over-represented in the care system, while Indigenous adults are over-represented in the justice system. Women and girls face increased rates of gender-based violence – as noted in the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls report – which would not be tolerated if the same were happening to settlers. Land and water rights have been stripped. The list goes on.
Reconciliation requires more than a national holiday. Indigenous Peoples continue to be adversely impacted by ongoing colonial practices. We honour their strength and resilience and will listen to and amplify Indigenous voices. The acknowledgement and implementation of truth and reconciliation is just the beginning to this journey. Much more needs to be done to rebuild trust.
As fundraising professionals, we are part of mission-driven organizations that harness the power of philanthropy to benefit and improve our communities. As we’re learning and redefining what it means to be inclusive, we also need to take a look at our own policies and processes that have made philanthropic opportunities inaccessible to Indigenous Peoples. Our services and programs that have missed out on having Indigenous Peoples lead the development for their own communities. Or how we disproportionately serve Indigenous Peoples without addressing the root causes of inequities.
We need to work together with Indigenous Peoples as allies and partners, to have their trust and move beyond tokenism and performative diversity, moving beyond just “having a seat at the table”. We need to understand how the decolonization, liberation, and Indigenization of programs and services will balance the distribution of power and control over what will directly benefit Indigenous Peoples. That work starts with taking the time and holding space in your mind and in your heart to learn about the history of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.
Our ongoing task is to learn about the injustices of colonialism and take seriously the 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Report and work towards building healthy, sustainable, diverse communities where we all belong. Here are some ways to support reconciliation:
- Learn about the residential school system and its intergenerational impacts.
- Read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action
- Read a land acknowledgement and learn about the land you are hosted on
- Support Indigenous community organizers and activists in their efforts to raise awareness for National Truth and Reconciliation Day
- Donate to the Indian Residential School Survivors Society
- Learn from The Circle about reconciliation and the decolonization of wealth
The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) is hosting a series of online events open to the public the week of September 21 – October 1, 2021. For more information, visit the NCTR’s Truth and Reconciliation Week web page.