September 30th marks the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, a day of commemoration responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's 94 Calls to Action.
This day of remembrance encourages Canadians to stand in solidarity to address the government's harm inflicted on Indigenous* peoples. Residential schools were one of many attempts to assimilate Indigenous peoples by eradicating their identities and cultures.
We recognize that the widespread experiences and normalization of physical and sexual violence experienced by Indigenous children in residential schools, among other outcomes of colonialism, have laid the groundwork for the over-representation of Indigenous women and girls experiencing sexual violence today1 . On the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, we honour the survivors of residential schools, the children who never returned home, as well as their families and communities in their grief and mourning.
Despite the last residential school closing only 26 years ago, we must acknowledge the intergenerational effects of these schools and the impacts of ongoing colonialism on Indigenous communities. For example, "Indigenous women and girls are 12 times more likely to be murdered or missing than any other women in Canada"2 . Additionally, "Indigenous women are sexually assaulted three times more often than non-Indigenous women, and most of the women and children trafficked in Canada are Indigenous"3 . While Indigenous 2SLGBTQQIA+ individuals are often erased from the data, we know that these communities are also facing disproportionate rates of sexual violence 4. These are systemic problems that continue today and will take the efforts of all Canadians to address.
As a non-Indigenous, survivor-centered organization in the unceded, unsurrendered Territory of the Anishinaabe Algonquin Nation, ORCC strives to be an ally in Indigenous-led efforts to address sexual violence as a manifestation of colonial violence.
Broader and more meaningful measures must be taken to dismantle the existing oppressive structures that sustain and perpetuate inequality in Canada.
Over the past year, ORCC has led and supported several initiatives to address human trafficking, an issue that disproportionately affects Indigenous peoples.
Our organization continues to urge all levels of government to move forward on the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action, and the Calls for Justice made by the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People (MMIWG2S+).
These reports are critical milestones that highlight the magnitude of colonial violence and provide the opportunity for Canadians to begin decolonizing our understanding of our history and society.
To help further these Calls, the ORCC is a member of an Indigenous-led Federal Urban Indigenous Working Group of the MMIWG2S+ National Action Plan Implementation Committee. This group is dedicated to ensuring that national initiatives to address colonial violence toward women, girls, and two-spirited people address the unique needs of urban Indigenous people.
But this is just a start. We know that an incredible amount of work still lies ahead. We must make substantial efforts to learn from the voices and experiences of Residential School Survivors, their families, and communities. Each of us must take action to right the wrongs of the past.
At ORCC, we commit to continuing to learn and engage with the community to make strides toward decolonizing our operations, service provision, advocacy, and partnerships. We will not look away from these uncomfortable truths. Instead, we commit to learning from them to build meaningful and engaged allyship.
*ORCC uses the term "Indigenous" to encompass "First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people, regardless of residency and regardless of relationship to the Crown." (Urban Path to Reclaiming Power and Place, Regardless of Residency—Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ National Action Plan)
A commitment to stand in solidarity with Indigenous communities must demonstrate a commitment to support healing through action.
Here are some ways to do your part:
- Donate to an organization supporting Residential School Survivors, like the Indian Residential School Survivors Society, Minwaashin Lodge, or Tungasuvvingat Inuit.
- Register for the free Indigenous Canada course through the University of Alberta. Better yet, encourage your friends and family members to sign up, so you can learn alongside each other.
- Take the time to read the 94 Calls to Action made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and then write a letter to your local MP to express your support for implementing them.
Supports for Residential School Survivors
National Indian Residential School Crisis Line | 24/7 | 1.866.925.4419
Nation-wide emotional support and crisis referral services for former students and those affected.
Minwaashin Lodge | 613-741-5590 | https://www.minlodge.com
An Indigenous Women's Support Centre that provides a range of programs and services to First Nations, Inuit, and Métis women and children (regardless of status) who are survivors of domestic and other forms of violence and may also be suffering the effects of the residential school system.
Talk4Healing Talk, Text & Chat | 24/7 | 1.855.554.HEAL | https://talk4healing.com
Ontario-based help, support, and resources for Indigenous women, by Indigenous women, in 14 Indigenous languages.
Tungasuvvingat Inuit | 613-565-5885 | https://tiontario.ca
An Inuit-specific registered not-for-profit Ontario service provider offering social support, cultural activities, employment and education assistance, youth programs, counselling, crisis intervention, and more.
Hope for Wellness Help Line | 24/7 | 1.855.242.3310 | https://hopeforwellness.ca
Nation-wide counselling and crisis intervention for Indigenous Peoples in English, French, Cree, Ojibway, and Inuktitut.
- 1. Native Women’s Association of Canada. “Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking of Aboriginal Women and Girls: Literature Review and Key Informant Interviews Final Report.” Canada: For the Canadian Women’s Foundation Task Force on Trafficking of Women and Girls in Canada, October 2014.
- 2. National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. “Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.” p.7 Vancouver, 2019.
- 3. National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. “Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.” p.55 Vancouver, 2019.
- 4. National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. “Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.” Vancouver, 2019.