Statement from the Chair: National Indigenous Peoples Day
Each year during National Indigenous History Month in Canada we celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21. This year, the occasion carries a solemn and mournful weight in the light of the tragic discoveries of the past month. It also signifies a promise of action after Canada’s Senate approved Bill C-15 last week.
These conflicting emotions of sadness and hope are synonymous with this country’s journey toward truth and reconciliation. The truth of the atrocities inflicted upon the Indigenous peoples of Canada is horrific and sad, the loss of life, of language, culture, and traditions is unimaginable to most Canadians. The hopes of reconciliation, a promise yet to be delivered on.
Canada’s commitment to implement the provisions of the United Nation’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples sets out a clear legal requirement for the Government of Canada to work cooperatively with Indigenous peoples to ensure that federal laws meet the standards laid out under this declaration and create a concrete action plan for its implementation.
Despite the efforts to erase the histories, traditions, cultures and lives of Indigenous peoples, our spirits remain strong. Systemic racism and discrimination continue to threaten our freedoms and potential, but our resilience cannot be ignored or understated.
The treaties of peace and friendship underpin the aspirations of indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples seeking a harmonious coexistence established generations ago. We must embrace these principles and the spirit of cooperation as we reimagine our relationships with one another.
The road ahead must be built on a foundation of truth, knowledge, and understanding. Our journey along it will require us to commit to traveling together to arrive at a future based on mutual respect, equity, and kindness.
Cheryl Knockwood is the Chair of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission. She is a lawyer and currently works for the Membertou First Nation as its governance coordinator. She has taught Aboriginal and Treaty Rights at Cape Breton University.