In 2021, Canadian society was finally forced to reckon with the reality of its historical relationship with Indigenous peoples. People who grew up with an image of Canada as a peaceful society were rocked by news from Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation that 215 unmarked graves had been found near the Kamloops Indian Residential School. What Indigenous people had known as their reality for generations since the beginning of colonization now became impossible for Canadians to ignore: that this country was founded upon intentional cultural genocide and land theft, and that the effects of the genocidal residential school system are still ongoing today.
Many non-Indigenous people in Canada were able to grieve about their national identity and then move on with their lives. This is not an option for Indigenous communities. Over the years since the first “discovery,” there have been more and more bodies found, including some as recently as this week. Indigenous communities continue to conduct radar searches and find bodies and anomalies, while also support their Survivors in their journeys of healing and courageously telling their stories.
Meanwhile, the vast majority of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) 94 Calls to Action have not been met – even though nearly eight years have passed since they were released. According to the Yellowhead Institute, just 13 Calls have been completed, out of a total of 94. If this pace continues, the TRC Calls to Action will not be completed until the year 2065.
On September 30th, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, we, at Carolinian Canada, urge everyone in our network to remember that reconciliation needs to happen more than just one day of the year. Truth and Reconciliation need to directly inform all of our work, every day, through Indigenous leadership and working with Indigenous partners. In the Carolinian network, we work in the conservation sector and cross-sectorally, where our aim is to collaborate for healthy ecosystems in the spirit and practice of reconciliation. We must work from the knowledge that these lands and waters were violently and systematically dispossessed from Indigenous peoples. It is imperative that, in our conservation work, we support initiatives that empower Indigenous stewardship.
As the Carolinian Canada Coalition, we recognize our responsibility to centre our network around Indigenous leadership. We have committed ourselves to an Accountability Statement to this effect. We encourage you to join us in adopting an accountability statement as a way to move beyond mere land acknowledgement and embrace the need to bring reconciliation into action.
Finally, we urge everyone to attend National Day for Truth and Reconciliation events near you this weekend, and to make a firm commitment to continue this work with us throughout the year. We invite you to engage with the resources we have compiled to help us learn from, listen to, and show up for Indigenous communities here: ORANGE