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National Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous Solidarity Day

National Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous Solidarity Day

By: Teresa Donnelly, Treasurer | June 10, 2021

June is National Indigenous History Month and June 21 is National Indigenous Solidarity Day. This is an opportunity for all Canadians – Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to reflect upon, learn the history and sacrifices, and celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures and traditions of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples, who have lived in this land for more than a hundred centuries.  

Marking National Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous Solidarity Day is especially poignant considering the recent tragic news of the 215 Indigenous children whose lives were taken at the former Kamloops residential school. This recent uncovering is another painful reminder of the legacy of residential schools in Canada. Beginning in the mid-19th century and up until 1996, over 150,000 Indigenous children were sent to 139 residential schools across the country. For over a century, the goal of Government officials and missionaries was to assimilate Indigenous children and the only way of achieving this was to separate them from their parents and their home communities.  

Although the Government of Canada formally apologized for the residential school system in 2008, the damaging legacy of the schools continues to this day. Indigenous people are more likely to live in poverty, more likely to be in ill health and die sooner, more likely to have their children apprehended by child welfare agencies, and more likely to be imprisoned than other Canadians. The disappearance of many Indigenous languages and the erosion of cultural traditions also have their roots in residential schools.

We all have a role to play individually and collectively to combat systemic racism and racial discrimination and build a fair and just society for all. The recent devastating tragedy highlights the important work that the Law Society needs to conduct, together with the Indigenous Advisory Group, regarding the implementation of the Law Society’s Indigenous Framework and the recommendations of the Review Panel on Regulatory and Hearing Processes Affecting Indigenous Peoples. It is imperative that the Law Society continue to support the implementation of the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This is a critical part of our work on equality, diversity, and inclusion.

Ensuring equality, diversity and inclusion within the legal professions is a fundamental component of the Law Society’s mandate – ensuring diverse legal professions not only promotes the public interest but also furthers access to justice.

One of the key aims of the Reconciliation process is to raise awareness and educate the public about the oppression and discrimination Indigenous peoples have experienced for centuries. As Treasurer, I have had the privilege of collaborating closely with many colleagues and legal professionals who are First Nations, Inuit, and Métis. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn more about the legacy of racism and colonialism in our institutions, through these interactions, and through my engagement with the Law Society benchers who are Indigenous, the Equity and Indigenous Affairs Committee, and the Indigenous Advisory Group.

I invite you to attend the Law Society’s National Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous Solidarity Day program, as part of our Equity Legal Education Series. This year’s event takes place online on June 22 from 5 to 6:30 p.m. The program features welcoming remarks and reflections, teachings from Elders, and cultural performances airing the richness of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. You can learn more about the program and register at this link: https://lso.ca/news-events/events/events-2021/national-indigenous-history-month-and-national-ind  

As we mark National Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous Solidarity Day, I invite each one of us to take time to reflect on our path to advance Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, and to celebrate the history, traditions, and the tremendous contributions First Nation, Inuit and Métis peoples make to this country every single day.

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