On this National Indigenous Peoples Day, amidst National Indigenous History Month, I am reflecting on the painful legacy the Residential School System and the 60s Scoop has left in Canada. The discovery of the remains of 215 children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in Kamloops, BC – which is only one of the 139 schools like this across Canada – is a disturbing reminder of the truth that, yes, a policy-driven genocide took place in Canada and, yes, we all have a responsibility to find ways to respond meaningfully to this truth in our work and personal lives.
As an Indigenous person, I am keenly aware of my own connection to the 60s Scoop and the intergenerational effects it’s had on my life. I’ve spent the last 10 years coming into my Indigenous identity, battling internalized-racism, understanding how these government policies were designed to erase my culture and identity as an Indigenous person and, ultimately, learning what it means to be a proud Indigenous person in Canada today – and to not be ashamed of who I am.
I believe everyone has a personal journey with reconciliation. My own journey is marked with a series of significant moments starting with personal research and building a cursory understanding of the real history of Indigenous people in Canada. I actively discovered this during my undergraduate program at Canadian Mennonite University and throughout my employment at the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority, which included being present in Ottawa for the release of the Truth & Reconciliation Final Report, where I was witness to the many stories of Residential School survivors in Canada. This culminated in meeting my own biological family on Yellow Quill First Nation. As I’ve begun to learn the story of Canada’s relationship with Indigenous people – and how my story plays a part in this, I often think about what I can do in response.
I realize that being a child of a 60s Scoop survivor and being raised in a settler household, I hold a tremendous responsibility as an Indigenous communicator. I know I have the privilege and power to wield a pen to author change in communities and organizations everywhere.
So in that spirit, I want to use this moment to remind you of the Truth & Reconciliation Call to Action number 92, which is very important to me as a business leader:
92. We call upon the corporate sector in Canada to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a reconciliation framework and to apply its principles, norms, and standards to corporate policy and core operational activities involving Indigenous peoples and their lands and resources. This would include, but not be limited to, the following:
1. Commit to meaningful consultation, building respectful relationships, and obtaining the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous peoples before proceeding with economic development projects.
2. Ensure that Aboriginal peoples have equitable access to jobs, training, and education opportunities in the corporate sector, and that Aboriginal communities gain long-term sustainable benefits from economic development projects.
3. Provide education for management and staff on the history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal-Crown relations. This will require skills based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.
As business owners and communicators, Melody and I want to reaffirm our commitment to meaningful consultation and building respectful relationships with Indigenous peoples in Canada – and encouraging those we partner with to do the same. We are also committed to lending our abilities to turn up the voices of Indigenous people in an effort to advance Truth & Reconciliation in Canada, with the goal to create more caring, engaged and responsible communities.
Yes, the truth is painful and, yes, acting on that truth is a daunting collective effort, but it is critical to the future of our nations and nation-to-nation relationship building. I want to encourage you to think about what efforts you can make to advance reconciliation in Canada – and if you want to engage in dialogue, please feel free to reach out to us. This is something we all have to do, together.