Indigenous People continue to face violence, systemic discrimination, and inequality in Canada

Every year on June 21 Canada celebrates National Indigenous Peoples Day. While the day is full of celebrations and events, it is also a day of reflection and learning.

Here at the Legal Centre we are undertaking our own education on the history and contemporary realities of First Nations, Inuit and Métis in Canada, through an online course called “The Path”. The course is designed to help people in Canada understand the legal issues Indigenous Peoples have faced since the British and French colonized Canada. Organizations in Peterborough and across Canada may want to consider implementing this course for their staff/workers:

Learning is an important part of Canada’s path forward, to that end, we are sharing some of the current issues facing Indigenous Peoples.

In her interim report released last week, Kimberly Murray, the Independent Special Interlocutor for Missing Children and Unmarked Graves and Burial Sites, stated that urgent consideration should be given to legal mechanisms to combat residential school denialism. Murray said that there had been increasing attacks from denialists who challenge communities when they announce the discovery of possible unmarked graves. The violence Indigenous communities are facing at the hands of denialists include virtual harassment through social media and email and in-person confrontations. In some disturbing incidents, people attempted to enter grave sites with shovels to “see for themselves.” Not only is such behaviour violent and offensive, it is extremely upsetting and belittling for Indigenous People. Ms. Murray has requested that consideration be given to the use of criminal and civil sanctions against denialists who entice violence or harm. See the Interim Report here.

It is important to recognize that Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people, experience higher rates of violence than other Canadians. Despite work to address this issue, the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) called the government’s progress a failure. See NWAC’s report here. If you have experienced violence as a result of your gender or sexual identity, please contact PCLC for information on your legal rights.

Indigenous People living in northern and remote communities continue to experience inadequate access to safe, clean drinking water, which poses a serious public health risk. Lack of access to clean water also impedes efforts to advance Indigenous Rights. Despite a call to end drinking water advisories in 2021, there are currently 31 long-term drinking water advisories in effect in 27 communities across Canada. Consider the next time you turn on your tap to fill the kettle, or give your pet water, or to take a shower, that not all people in Canada have access to clean water despite Canada having the largest fresh water preserves in the world.

It is also important to acknowledge and note that Indigenous children continue to face systemic barriers and discrimination in their access to education. The Human Rights Watch 2023 Report on Canada noted that in some instances Indigenous children’s private information was shared without consent during the pandemic. Further, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, was set to visit Canada in March 2023 to examine issues currently impacting Indigenous Peoples in Canada including Indigenous education.

While the above highlights some of the current issues impacting Indigenous Peoples, there is much to celebrate and honour. To learn about Indigenous People who have helped shape the country, please visit this site as a starting reference point.

If you are local to Nogojiwanong/Peterborough, check out the following events:

Finally, if you want to learn how to become an ally, please see the Indigenous Ally Toolkit developed by the Montreal Urban Aboriginal Community Strategy Network. Although specific to Montreal, it is a valuable tool.