In Canada, June is Indigenous Peoples History Month, and today is National Indigenous Peoples Day. The day to celebrate Indigenous peoples was instituted in 2017, but this is the first time in my recollection that I’ve heard it publicized (like so many other things Indigenous, this seems to have been swept under the rug for so long).
According to Trudeau, “No relationship is more important to Canada than the relationship with Indigenous Peoples. Our Government is working together with Indigenous Peoples to build a nation-to-nation, Inuit-Crown, government-to-government relationship – one based on respect, partnership, and recognition of rights.
“We are determined to make a real difference in the lives of Indigenous Peoples – by closing socio-economic gaps, supporting greater self-determination, and establishing opportunities to work together on shared priorities. We are also reviewing all federal laws and policies that concern Indigenous Peoples and making progress on the Calls to Action outlined in the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”
On this day, we honour and celebrate Indigenous people with a number of ceremonies and events taking place across the country. Don’t get me wrong: this is a positive thing as a day of remembrance, but for the other 364 days (or at least the other 11 months of the year), many of us will return to shaking our heads in disbelief as the government appoints more (white) people to oversee things such as “ensur[ing] the proper treatment and protection of residential school grave sites,” even as they pledge to continue to search for more school burials.
Rather than set aside a single day (or month) to bring Indigenous peoples to the fore, the government should be setting aside time to do more and be better where the First Nations are concerned. Though I realize that we can’t turn back the clock and what’s done cannot be undone, it seems to me that some real action could be taken to offset all of the lip service we hear in the media. Case in point: when I was doing research to write this post, most of the websites that turned up in my Google search were composed of Government of Canada propaganda sites, extolling the initiatives in store to make truth and reconciliation a reality and very little with respect to what still needs to be done or actual things that have been done.
I will celebrate National Indigenous Peoples day this year with a wish and a prayer that on this day next year I can mark some serious, meaningful strides that actually make a difference when it comes to treating First Nations people as the full-blown, original Canadians they are instead of as second-class citizens.