Truth, Reconciliation and Courage

June 21, 2016


On June 21, National Aboriginal Day, we celebrate the continuing emergence of a multifaceted Indigenous movement–a movement that offers the promise of a new solidarity based on equality and respect.

We now have had a full year to come to terms with the many hard truths of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Residential Schools. A way forward has been defined through the Commission’s 94 powerful recommendations–the Calls to Action that will set the terms of our nation-to-nation reconciliation.

The path is before us. What is required now is the courage to follow it.

Courage. We see it embodied in the historic and current struggles of Indigenous people. First Nations are fighting to protect their rights and lands, setting an example of environmental stewardship for all. Here in Mi’kmaq territory, the Millbrook and Sipekne’katik communities continue to demand consultations that more fully consider the environmental effects of the Alton Gas project.

Courage, in the face of deep tragedy. This year has been marked by a terrible string of youth suicides in Northern communities. We have also seen losses in Mi’kmaq communities. There are stories of resilient responses – like Eskasoni First Nation opening up a community crisis centre. There are stories of activism to honour the lives of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and prevent further disappearances.

Courage to live when one’s very existence is compromised by deep racism and structural violence. In a report appropriately entitled Shameful Neglect, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has reminded us that an astonishing 51% of Indigenous children in Canada live in poverty. And as our NDP caucus learned from a Freedom of Information request this spring, while Indigenous people comprise about 4% of Nova Scotia’s population, 7% of adults and 12% of youth in provincial custody are Indigenous.

It is easy to formally recognize Indigenous rights and declare we are in sympathy with the Truth and Reconciliation recommendations. The proof of that commitment can only come in hard policy and resources.

A resolution is being presented to our provincial NDP Convention in Truro this Saturday, entitled, Commitment to Truth and Reconciliation Recommendations. It would commit the NDP to “actively campaign for the provincial government to publicly acknowledge the historic reality of the injustices outlined in the Report and commit to acting on its Calls to Action,” and “actively campaign to ensure that sufficient provincial funding is committed to the process, and that actions be undertaken with measurable outcomes…as well as a timeline for implementation.”

Today, we acknowledge the tenacious courage of the first peoples whose land we all inhabit–and summon our own for the hard and important work ahead.

In solidarity and hope,