Today, on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, we have an opportunity to acknowledge and reflect on the lasting impact of the Indian residential school system in Canada. Today is an opportunity to learn about this painful aspect of our country’s history, as well as to commemorate the survivors, their families, and their communities – as called for by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Indigenous leaders.
This year, in light of the thousands of unmarked graves that have been discovered at former residential school sites across the country, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation has been elevated to a statutory holiday by the federal government. The increased prominence of this solemn occasion is a crucial step to ensure Canadians give this matter the attention it deserves.
It is important that we recognize residential schools as a form of cultural genocide that continues to have an enduring effect on Indigenous peoples across the country. We also acknowledge there is much more work left to do on the path to reconciliation, and that we all have a role in this effort.
Today, we invite the people of Niagara to reflect on the systemic oppression, inequalities and discrimination that Indigenous peoples have suffered for centuries. We must all recognize the racism that Indigenous communities continue to face in some cases even today, and our role in helping to build a better community for everyone.
Simple acknowledgement of our past is insufficient, and offering apologies in themselves is not enough. Here in Niagara, we take seriously our responsibility to implement the Calls to Action found in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report. Of the 94 Calls to Action, eight of them specifically relate to municipal operations – in partnership with our local Indigenous leaders, we are making progress on addressing these issues and we continue to make them a priority.
We encourage all Niagara residents to take the time to listen and learn on this National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Every Canadian has a role to play in learning and telling the truth, as well as helping to build a community where Indigenous people feel safe, respected and have equal opportunity to achieve success.