SCA | Quick News | September 30, 2022

Following Royal Assent on June 3, 2021, September 30 now marks the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, which was legislated, via Bill C-5, as a federal holiday by the Government of Canada in response to Call to Action #80 from the collection of 94 Calls to Action compiled by The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in 2015. In recognition of this day, also known as Orange Shirt Day, as well as in recognition of the still-ongoing ramifications of settler-colonialism in this country we call Canada, our regular Quick News reporting is paused.

Call to Action #80 states: We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, to establish, as a statutory holiday, a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to honour Survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.

Image: Indigenous Watchdog

However, as Indigenous Watchdog, a group "committed to transforming the reconciliation dialogue between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians into action," points out, "As of Sept. 30, 2022, 38% of the 94 TRC Calls to Action are either NOT STARTED or STALLED." As they also warn, when it comes to asking "How many of the TRC Calls to Action are complete? Don’t ask the federal government." Instead, drawing from the CBC’s Beyond 94 website, the Yellowhead Institute’s Calls to Action Accountability: A 2021 Status Update on Reconciliation, and their own most-recent TRC Calls To Action Status Update, Indigenous Watchdog make clear that the Government of Canada's measure of completed Calls to Action is exaggerated at best and deceitful at worst (as the image here enumerates). Even by the Government of Canada's own claims, then, completing only 17 out of 76 (approximately 22%) of the federally targeted Calls to Action since 2015, when they were delivered by the TRC, is woefully inadequate.

But the Government of Canada's inadequacy here is even starker when it's appreciated that none of the Calls to Action from the TRC really address new or unknown problems. While recognition of and work towards reconciliation and decolonization in Canada, particularly by non-Indigenous people, has become more visible and active in recent years — perhaps especially following the inspirational organizational and activist work done under the banner of Idle No More, which began in 2012, and not to mention the essential, heart-wrenching work of the TRC itself — the roots of the problem begin with European colonization of the "Americas" in 1492 (notwithstanding the 11th century Viking or Norse settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland), far in advance of the foundation of the Dominion of Canada on July 1, 1867, with the British North America Act (and even with respect to Canada's still relatively recent patriation of its Constitution on April 17, 1982, which included both the establishment of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and, in section 35 of the Constitution Act, the guarantee of Indigenous peoples' inherent right to self-government).  

With the history of Canada inseparably defined by settler-colonialism, a history that still permeates Canada's political, economic, social, and cultural institutions, what understanding of and work towards reconciliation and decolonization we do have owes everything to the resilience, bravery, and commitment of Indigenous peoples. Centering on and lead by that crucial effort, and informed by such clear, pragmatic guides as the TRC's Calls to Action, it's well overdue that all non-Ingenious people in Canada fully engage the struggle for reconciliation and decolonization, and collectively insist on a better, more equitable future for everyone, while also honestly addressing the crimes and traumas of the past.

If our democratic political processes in Canada mean and amount to anything, everyday citizens have the power to insist that our governments – from the local to the federal level – take action, and take action now. In 2019, the government of British Columbia passed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (or Declaration Act), which, following the TRC's Calls to Action, accepted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) as the framework for reconciliation in the Province. We can and must insist that our government lives up to this commitment.

With all that in mind, but with a shift towards local governments, please remember that BC's 2022 General Local Elections are on October 15, 2022.

Recognizing the day

We encourage everyone to read or reread the TRC's 94 Calls to Action, which you can download HERE as a PDF. SFU's library has posted an excellent collection of book and film recommendations, plus a set of other good links to follow (including a short video by Phyllis Webstad on Orange Shirt Day), on their website HERE. The National FIlm Board of Canada has an extensive collection of Indigenous-made films to watch online HERE. For all SFU students, faculty, and staff in particular, you can evaluate SFU's ongoing reconciliation work on the SFU Office for Aboriginal Peoples' website HERE, including a link to SFU's Reconciliation Reports. The websites for Indigenous Watchdog, the Yellowhead Institute and CBC’s Beyond 94 are all great resources, as is the website for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. There are also a number of charities to support, including the Indian Residential School Survivors Society, the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre Society, the Vancouver Aboriginal Health Society, and the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre.  

September 30, 2022