What Now? A Reflection on young Indigenous lives and reconciliation

For a number of years, Community Foundations of Canada has been exploring and advancing the idea of “belonging” as a guide for our work. We know through our networks, our relationships and our research that we cannot have a Canada where everyone belongs if we do not, together as Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, create equal opportunity for everyone of this land. At Community Foundations of Canada, we remain steadfast and resolute in our commitment to reconciliation and justice for Indigenous people in Canada. We know we must continue learning and listening and that this is not work we can do without acknowledgment of our shared past and understanding of truth.

Like so many people and organizations across Canada in the last month, we have been following the stories of two young Indigenous people, Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine. Our thoughts have been with their families, loved ones and communities.

Their stories tell us so much about colonialism in Canada, our sustained practice of failing young people, and the continued systemic inequalities that exist between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in our country. For the past several weeks, we have been doing the work of asking what these verdicts mean and if we need to speak out, why, how and what do we say?

We know that we cannot move towards reconciliation until we grapple with these truths and make massive changes across our institutions and our culture. We’ve been listening, reflecting, learning with and from our partners, Indigenous and non-Indigenous leaders in our movement and in our communities.

Our conversations have sparked more questions than they have answers. How can we be better allies in support movements for justice and equity for Indigenous peoples and all Canadians? How can we engage in meaningful action with Indigenous individuals and communities, sustain our efforts and ensure that we effect change in our networks that contributes to more positive outcomes and greater justice?

Perhaps the most important thing we can say and do right now is to give voice and lend our support to leaders and efforts in the community towards greater justice. We know that the journey towards reconciliation is inhibited when we face circumstances like these, when communities face tension, division, discouragement and anger. As Dr. Cindy Blackstock, advocate, researcher and Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society has said:

“What I don’t want to see is another generation of First Nations adults having to recover from their childhoods as so many survivors of the residential schools have had to do. As a country we need to do better than continuing this longstanding pattern of discrimination against First Nations children, young people and their families. They deserve equality going forward…The role of the public is really critical. Reconciliation to me is about not having to say sorry a second time.”

While we do not have all the answers, we do firmly believe that belonging is only possible when we take actions to address injustice and inequity.

For philanthropic organizations, there are a few concrete actions that we can take

We hope that some of the above resources and suggestions may be helpful to you, your organization or community and help to inspire wider discussion and dialogue on this important subject.

Yours sincerely,

Ian Bird and Andrew Chunilall



Featured image of Carey Newman’s Witness Blanket, as shown at Belong 2017.

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