The discovery of 215 Indigenous children buried in an unmarked grave at a former Kamloops residential school, was horrifying & deplorable. In fact, I struggled to find the right words to express how horrific and deeply saddening this discovery was. It is important to recognize that this was not an isolated incident in Kamloops but rather a particularly shocking wake-up call to what Indigenous people have been telling us for generations – that our relationship with the first peoples of this land is fundamentally shameful and unjust. The children in Kamloops, and those across the country, died after their language, culture, identity and families were ripped away from them by the Church and by the Canadian government. These injustices are not limited to historic events – anti-Indigenous racism and colonial violence on an individual and systemic level continue today, and will continue to until our country fundamentally reimagines its core relationship with the Indigenous people of what we now know of as Canada. There are still no adequate words to describe the sadness I feel, and I know many in our community feel the same way.
While it is okay to feel sadness, our emotions must spur a genuine acknowledgement of our nation’s atrocities and must make us recognize the absolute necessity to take action. In the City of Toronto and across the country, the month of June is recognized as Indigenous Heritage Month. Earlier this month, I was proud to support a motion put forward by my colleague Councillor Mike Layton, committing Toronto to working towards calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Report and requesting that the Federal and Provincial governments do the same. I am also happy to convey that the community’s work on addressing police violence has resulted in the creation of a non-police crisis response team for members of Toronto’s Indigenous population that will launch early next year. On a more local level, my office continues to work with local Indigenous organizations and artists in the community to support Indigenous placemaking throughout Toronto-St. Paul’s. Ultimately, however, Toronto can not make the necessary changes on its own. Provincial and Federal governments must make meaningful commitments to fundamentally changing their relationship with Indigenous communities.
As we mark Indigenous History Month, I encourage you to read the Executive Summary and Calls to Action published by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which can be found here. Please do not hesitate to reach out to my office at firstname.lastname@example.org if there is anything we can do to support you as a member of Toronto’s Indigenous community.