As we look to July 1 and possible Canada Day celebrations, we also need to have an honest look at our history as a country. The discovery of 761 unmarked graves at a Saskatchewan residential school, a mass grave of 215 children at a former residential school in Kamloops, and the fact that many more mass gravesites of Indigenous children are still being, and will be, discovered, revealed to many Canadians the dark truth behind Canada’s residential and day school system and its impact on Indigenous people, Metis and Inuit.
To residential and day school survivors, families and descendants of survivors, the discovery was not a surprising development. As the Truth and Reconciliation Commission noted in 2015: “for over a century, the central goals of Canada’s Aboriginal policy were to eliminate Aboriginal governments; ignore Aboriginal rights; terminate the Treaties; and, through a process of assimilation, cause Aboriginal peoples to cease to exist as distinct legal, social, cultural, religious, and racial entities in Canada. The establishment and operation of residential schools were a central element of this policy, which can best be described as cultural genocide.”
Because our union is committed to justice and ending the continued colonialism, institutional racism and tokenism that First Nations, Metis and Inuit still endures in 2021, AUPE believes we also need to take a step back from our celebrations on Canada Day.
On Canada Day, AUPE’s Human Rights and Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Committees are asking our members, our staff and all Albertans and Canadians to honour those lives lost to residential and day schools. We must also honour those children who survived residential and day schools, we must honour their families and their descendants who still suffer generational trauma from Canada’s attempt of cultural genocide, and we must honour all Indigenous people, Metis and Inuit and their nations who still reside on this land. We must respect their thousands of years of history, their present lives, their role in the future of this land, and celebrate the vibrancy and diversity of Indigenous culture and people.
We also ask that you read the 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and find ways implement some of them into your personal life or your worksite.
In order to move forward as a nation, we need to acknowledge what truly occurred, the good and the bad, in our history.