As Canada's journey toward reconciliation with Indigenous people continues, a report from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls shows the real work needs to start here at home.
The inquiry delivered its final report this past week, a 1,200-page deep dive into the factors that have helped create a world where Indigenous women are many times more likely than Caucasian women to go missing, be murdered or be sexually assaulted.
The calls for justice the inquiry lays out include educating ourselves on Indigenous history and confronting racism, sexism, ignorance, homophobia and transphobia. Change that comes from educated, empathetic residents could mark the turning point for our society.
Here in St. Albert – once the location of two residential schools – we are fortunate to have many people standing up for Indigenous rights: champions like Gwen Crouse, who cofounded the St. Albert-Sturgeon County chapter of the Métis Nation of Alberta, has helped bring about the National Aboriginal Day festival and who played a key role in the building of the St. Albert Healing Garden; and like Sharon Morin, who has spent much of her life advocating for Indigenous rights and who has brought Indigenous history further into the public eye as program manager at the Musée Héritage Museum.
Morin told the Gazette last year St. Albertans can help achieve reconciliation by starting at the beginning, learning and understanding the Indian Act and what the treaties mean, as well as our own local Indigenous history. Education is the first step toward reconciliation.
If the inquiry's report tells us anything, it is that we cannot lay the blame for Indigenous suffering upon Indigenous shoulders. The root cause of that suffering is colonialism, which saw the Canadian government brutalize generations of Indigenous children and families, the lasting impacts of which are still being grappled with today.
The inquiry's report reminds us everyone has a role to play in fighting the violence Indigenous women, girls and LGBTQ people face. We must take reconciliation seriously if we hope to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians.
We as a society have been digesting this topic for decades. This report could be a definitive moment in shaping the future for all Canadians, if we choose to listen to what it says.
There are opportunities for education everywhere you look. The City of St. Albert itself has recently launched efforts toward reconciliation, called Payhonin. In May, the Métis Spring Festival took place at Servus Place. On June 23, St. Albert's second-annual missing and murdered Indigenous women walk begins in Lions Park prior to the National Aboriginal Day celebration. If you go to the Legislative Assembly's Borealis Gallery, you can see an exhibit on the legacy of residential schools. In August, Poundmaker's Lodge is holding its annual powwow to honour Indigenous language and culture.
Paul Kane student Hannah Nash told the Gazette this past week that reconciliation and healing cannot be done without non-Indigenous people: "People need to understand that this isn't something that's going to go away," she said.
We all have a part to play.