First Nations here in Ontario and across the country have been subject to inquiries and commissions since the 1980s. There have been hundreds of recommendations – from the 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples; to the 2007 Ipperwash Commission; to the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action.
It has been over two years since the 2019 Commission into Missing and Murdered Women and Girls delivered its final report. The federal government has yet to respond.
So where are we at on all those recommendations to improve First Nations’ quality of life? Poverty. Despair. Suicide. Children in state care. It has all increased.
So where are we at on Reconciliation? A few apologies. A few buildings and roads have had their names changed. A few statues have been torn down. Lots of symbolism and sorries. Not much on substance.
It is not enough to fly flags at half mast and wear orange t-shirts in memory of the thousands of children who died attending residential schools and were buried in unmarked graves.
These crimes against our children continue today through the child welfare system and the thousands of children and youth who end up on the streets; become drug addicts; commit suicide; and join the long list of missing and murdered.
Canada must realize that Reconciliation is not about saying sorry. Reconciliation is not about ticking off the easy boxes of the TRC Calls to Action – erecting monuments to survivors; adding curriculum in schools; and inserting land recognitions before meetings.
We can no longer – we MUST no longer – tolerate the current inequities faced by our Peoples.
We can no longer say sorry when a First Nation family dies in a house fire. We can no longer say sorry when an entire First Nation community is displaced by flooding.
In order the reconcile the mistakes of the past and present, Canada and Ontario must invest in infrastructure. Clean water must be delivered to homes that are as safe to live in as those in mainstream Canada.
Our children must be able to access the same education as mainstream Canadians. Our communities must be able to fully and completely participate in the local, regional, and national economies.
As Dr. Evan Adams of the BC First Nations Health Authority likes to state: Wealthy people are healthy people.
For First Nations, our wealth is the land. Our wealth is our language and culture. We just need to live in healthy homes, drink clean water, and eat healthy foods in order to survive and thrive.
OMSSA members are vital to assisting Indigenous Peoples across the province through the nature of the work you do. Members are on the front-lines and work with people from all different backgrounds to help them thrive. In this instance, as Ontario works to rebuild the relationship with Indigenous Peoples, engage with Indigenous Peoples in your communities to see how you can assist their efforts in breaking several cycles to support their success.
A significant step towards restarting the relationship begins with breaking the cycle of poverty by establishing long-term sustainable funding.
It begins with breaking the cycle of dependence by moving toward self-government and self-sustaining economies.
Once we are able to effectively engage both the federal and provincial governments, renewal of the nation-to-nation relationship will progress at a rapid pace over the coming years.
Our children must be able to see a bright future where they are the masters of their own destiny. Our children must be empowered to become contributors and protectors of their families, their languages, and their cultures.
Our children must be able to prepare for a future where they are the leaders and professionals in happy, healthy communities.
Once we gain back control of our communities through self governance and self-sustaining economies -- only then will we finally become equals. Only then will we finally secure our rightful place in Ontario and Canada.
Isadore Day is the former Chief of Serpent River First Nation and a former Ontario Regional Chief over the span of 15 years involved in First Nation leadership. Isadore was the Chair of the Assembly of First Nations’ Chiefs Committee on Health and established the AFN Task Force on Cannabis.
He is the Founder and CEO of Bimaadzwin where his main focus is on Nationhood rights and Sovereignty; and specifically, the improvement in First Nation health, social, economy conditions of current and future generations. Isadore is emphatic that the Indian Act is colonial oppression and at the root of what must change in all First Nations – he vows to maintain and refine his life’s mission to be focused on reconstituting Indigenous Nations on Turtle Island. He works with all levels of government and industry, as well as numerous associates to ensure the economic development and autonomy of First Nations.
Isadore is also speaking at OMSSA's upcoming Defining Pathways to Reconciliation Forum on October 20-21, 2021. Moderating the opening and closing panel discussion, Isadore will lead panelists and audience members through a conversation about where we want to be in the Reconciliation process ten years from now. Relying on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission‘s Calls to Action to guide the discussion, the panelists and audience will begin the process of identifying destination points on the road to Reconciliation that CMSMs and DSSABs can use to track their progress toward the achievement of this vision.Blog categories: Indigenous, ReconciliationPhotos courtesy of Bimaadzwin