2016 marks the 20th anniversary of National Aboriginal Day, held annually on June 21. This is a day for all Canadians to recognize and celebrate the vibrant cultures and many contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.
National Aboriginal Day also provides an opportunity for us to reflect on the past and continuing injustices affecting the original inhabitants of Turtle Island (North America) as a result of colonization. Report after report has demonstrated that the federal and provincial governments are failing to provide the same public services and social supports to First Nations communities that exist elsewhere. Aboriginal families continue to face food insecurity, housing shortages, high unemployment, barriers to education and unsafe drinking water at disproportionately high rates. Indigenous women and girls face disproportionately high levels of violence, an issue which our justice systems are systemically failing to address. And as the recent mental health crises in Attawapiskat and elsewhere have all too clearly demonstrated, the denial of basic human rights to Aboriginal community members is causing many to look to suicide as an answer. As we celebrate National Aboriginal Day, CUPE Ontario reaffirms its commitment to fight for justice, full inclusion, self-determination and equal access to quality public services for Aboriginal peoples.
Through our Aboriginal Council, CUPE Ontario is currently conducting a petition card campaign in support of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations on education. As a long-time supporter of the Free Grassy movement, we are also calling on the government to take action regarding the mercury poisoning of the watershed at Grassy Narrows First Nation.
This Aboriginal Day, CUPE Ontario urges its members to take the opportunity to recognize that we all have a responsibility to work together to achieve truth and reconciliation, and to firmly commit to doing so. As part of our ongoing commitment to justice for Aboriginal peoples in Ontario and beyond, we ask that you join us in demanding that the government immediately begin remediation of the watershed at Grassy Narrows in order to correct the environmental, social and economic harm inflicted on the community by the contamination of the Wabigoon River.