Today we hold space for Survivors of residential schools, their families, communities and honour the children who never returned home.
Today is National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, or Orange Shirt Day: an Indigenous-led grassroots commemorative day raising awareness of the individual and inter-generational impacts of residential schools.
Here in Toronto, the closest residential school was the Mohawk Institute Residential School in Brantford. Nicknamed the "Mush Hole" due to the poor quality of food served to students there, the school operated from 1831-1970. During its 139 year run, children from the Six Nations, New Credit, Moraviantown, Sarnia, Walpole Island, Muncey, Scugog, StoneyPoint, Saugeen, Bay of Quinte and Kahnawake reserves were subjected to inhumane treatment, physical, sexual and emotional abuse.
The Residential school system separated 150,000 Indigenous children from their families, language, and culture. The last one closed in 1997.
I’m always stunned when I read that. The fact that these institutions were able to operate for so long is truly saddening.
As people who live in Canada, we are witness to a shared history of violence and trauma inflicted on Indigenous peoples and must continue to recognize, reflect on and work to correct the wrongdoing.
As an Afghan refuge, it is not lost on me that my family sought refuge in Canada, a country whose very existence is fraught with centuries of pain and injustice. This is a predicament that no newcomer can escape. I am a refuge. I am a settler.
Toronto has the largest Indigenous population in Ontario and the 4th largest in Canada. As residents of Toronto, we have a obligation to work with Indigenous peoples to co-develop services and programs that support Indigenous peoples and hold up Indigenous culture, traditions and language.
As a Steelworker, I am proud to work for a union that stands side-by-side with Indigenous communities. The Steelworkers have a long history of pressuring mining and forestry companies profiting off of Indigenous lands to invest back in the communities impacted, and negotiated an Impact Benefit Agreement (the first in Canada) with a mining company that resulted in directing millions of dollars back into the indigenous communities that were affected. We fought to ensure contract provisions that provide leave for indigenous workers to engage in culturally sensitive practices, like hunting.
In 2021, the City of Toronto developed it’s first Reconciliation Action Plan. The Plan includes 28 actions across 5 themes:
• Actions to restore truth
• Actions to right relations and share power
• Actions for justice
• Actions to make financial reparations
• Actions for the Indigenous Affairs Office
As Davenport’s next City Councillor, I will support the City of Toronto’s Reconciliation Action Plan. And I will continue to fight alongside Indigenous communities for self-determination and returning land to Indigenous governments, communities, collectives, and organizations.