Our Home on Native Land
Today as many celebrate the Canadian spirit of inclusion, may we also remember that this day, where we commemorate Canada is a day of pain for many. As crowds gather in droves to the parliament buildings on unceded Algonquin territory, may we consciously recall the great debt of our nation. Canada was founded by colonizing forces and mindsets and these continue to inform the beliefs, attitudes, policies and systems embraced by Canada. As a nation often praised for our kindness, our welcoming nature, our openness, we are failing our Indigenous brothers and sisters. It is incumbent upon those of us who are settlers on this land, to continue to make powerful strides to shift the status quo from deeply rooted attitudes and stereotypes that question why Aboriginal peoples can’t simply “get over it” to an understanding of the intergenerational impacts of colonization.

Intergenerational trauma is any trauma, including historical oppression, that has an impact across more than one generation. This can include shared collective memories that affect the health and well-being of individuals and communities and that may be passed on from parent to child, and beyond. The exclusion of Indigenous peoples from their lands and resources, the imposition of foreign land use and governance systems (including the reserve system and band form of governance), the Residential School System and the Indigenous child welfare system have each left legacies of trauma reverberating forward through generations. Settler policies and attitudes cut Indigenous peoples off from their traditional culture, languages, spirituality and other important parts of their identities.

According to the 2018 World Report by Human Rights Watch, the Canadian government has yet to pay adequate attention to systemic poverty, housing, water, sanitation, healthcare, and education problems in Indigenous communities, particularly those in remote and rural areas. The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in September urged the government to remedy what it found were persistent violations of the rights of Indigenous peoples. Inadequate access to clean, safe, drinking water continues to pose a major public health concern in many Indigenous communities. The poor quality of water on First Nations reserves has a serious impact on health and hygiene, especially for high-risk individuals—children, elders, and people with disabilities.

Currently, Indigenous women remain the most marginalized population in Canada. They experience higher rates of poverty, ill health, and violence when compared to the general Canadian population. Indigenous women and girls are more vulnerable to violence than their non-Indigenous counterparts in every province and territory of Canada. While Indigenous women only make up 4.3 percent of the female population, they account for 16 percent of the total female homicides and 11.3 percent of missing women in the country. The combination of racism and sexism experienced by Indigenous women in Canada has been referred to as “multiple jeopardy” because these women experience multiple economic, social, and political barriers within and outside Indigenous communities as a direct result of colonization. According to the Executive Summary from The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls , "For the violence against Indigenous women and girls to end, the ongoing colonial relationship that facilitates it must end." 

Recent data released by Statistics Canada demonstrates that Indigenous youth made up 46 per cent of admissions to correctional services in 2016-17 while making up only 8 per cent of the youth population. The proportion of Indigenous girls involved in the justice system has nearly doubled since 2006/2007. The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled in 2016 that the government of Canada was discriminating against First Nations children by not providing adequate, equitable or even equal funding for services.

In today’s Canada more Indigenous children are being taken out of their homes and communities than were displaced at the height of the residential school system. The difference is that those responsible now are provincial child welfare services, which place them in foster care at rates far higher than their share of the population. In 2016 more than 14,000 Indigenous children were in foster care. They accounted for just over half of all foster kids in the country even though they make up only 7 per cent of children in Canada.By comparison, at the height of the residential school system in the late 1950s, about 11,500 Indigenous children were housed there. Earlier this year Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott called the over-use of foster care for Indigenous kids a “humanitarian crisis.” Children are being apprehended because of poverty, a lack of adequate housing, or food. In Philpott's words, “We should be addressing the housing issue or the adequate food issue, not taking kids from their families.” Howard Sapers, an independent adviser to the government of Ontario on corrections reform recently shared similar recommendations , "The justice system cannot stand alone in curbing the trend of incarcerating Indigenous youth. Tackling poverty, unemployment or underemployment, poor housing, addictions and mental illness would make a large difference."

It is essential to also address the biases at work within Canadian society and by extension our justice system. After the recent verdict in the Peter Khill trial, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde commented , "This is the third trial verdict this year that tells First Nations that our lives do not matter, along with 30 years of documented systemic discrimination and racism in the Canadian justice system. It also sends a troubling signal to Canadians that they will not face consequences for acts of violence they commit on First Nation individuals."

This year's verdicts in the Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine trials are other recent examples of systemic racism at work in the justice system. Rachael Lake, eloquently offers in her analysis of these verdicts,

"How do we go forward with reconciliation? We aren’t even there yet. We need to focus on the truth of Canada’s colonial violence. Reconciliation isn’t for Indigenous people. It is for the settlers that stole this land, stole children away from their communities and culture and murdered our loved ones.

We must keep this conversation going. We must keep talking about the systemic injustices faced every day by Indigenous people. In the words of a dear colleague, “This is not the time to be silent.”

As an organization allied with a vision of a restorative future we know that the bringing together of people of all walks and doing the work of restoring right relations are essential to fulfilling a vision of a healed future including fostering a system of justice that heals. Healing the justice system necessitates turning towards inequities, overrepresentation and other systemic problems and using our shared platforms to advocate for change.

On this day where we remember our heritage, may we also hold in mind those who have been harmed by our history. Forging a new way demands more than apologizing for our collective past, it requires present action. May we continue to use our voices together to create change.
Self-Education Resources
Self-education can be one of the greatest tools at our disposal to be better allies.

Parallels between child separation at U.S. border and residential schools in Canada : The sights and sounds of children being separated from their families at the U.S. border has evoked strong reaction around the world. Ellen Gabriel, a Kanesatake Mohawk, believes the treatment of migrant children is reminiscent of residential schools in Canada.

The Sixties Scoop : Canada took thousands of Indigenous children from their parents between the 1960s and the 1980s, and the effects are still being felt today.

The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) fact sheets : The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) has worked for more than four decades to document the systemic violence impacting Indigenous women, girls, their families, and communities. From 2005 to 2010, NWAC’s Sisters In Spirit (SIS) Initiative confirmed 582 cases of missing and/or murdered Indigenous women and girls over a span of twenty years and worked to raise awareness of this human rights issue.

Native Land Map : This interactive map seeks to encourage people to remember that the lands we live on were known by many different names according to their languages and geography. Through this map you can look up your location and learn its history.

CCJC supports the implementation of the  UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a crucial means for achieving reconciliation between Indigenous peoples and settlers in Canada through Private member’s Bill C-262.

CCJC also supports the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action , particularly the Calls to Action related to justice (#25 through #42.)

"Realize that we as human beings have been put on this earth for only a short time and that we must use this time to gain wisdom, knowledge, respect and the understanding for all human beings since we are all relatives."

"ka-kí-kiskéyihtétan óma, namoya kinwés maka aciyowés pohko óma óta ka-hayayak wasétam askihk, ékwa ka-kakwéy miskétan kiskéyihtamowin, iyinísiwin, kistéyitowin, mina nánisitotatowin kakiya ayisiniwak, ékosi óma kakiya ka-wahkotowak."

ᓀᐦᐃᔭᐍᐏᐣ nēhiyawēwin proverb