Statement for National Indigenous Peoples Day
Deputy NDP Leader, Sol Mamakwa, Opposition Critic for Indigenous & Treaty Relations (and Kiiwetinoong MPP), issued the following statement today in commemoration of National Indigenous Peoples Day (June 21):
“Today is a day of solidarity to recognize the contributions of Indigenous people to what is now Canada.
While this day was created to honour Indigenous history and to celebrate our ongoing ways of life, we must recognize the realities as well.
People need to know that there is a suicide crisis ongoing in First Nations in Ontario. And we continue to lose too many of our young people to the opioid crisis. This is not news.
First Nations are dealing with these ongoing crises on top of their regular business, working with all levels of government without the same resources. They manage ongoing mental health, infrastructure, and water crises daily while resource companies demand their attention.
We must continue to examine the grounds of residential schools across Canada, and this difficult work must continue to be Indigenous-led as we are most mindful of the local realities.
The Office of the Independent Special Interlocutor for Missing Children and Unmarked Graves and Burial Sites associated with Indian Residential Schools spent much of the past year travelling the country and hearing from different communities, experts and survivors. In her interim report, she raised concerns about increasing attacks from denialists who challenge communities when they announce the discovery of possible unmarked graves at Residential schools.
The report said this violence is prolific, uniquely non-Indigenous, and takes place via email, telephone, social media, op-eds and, at times, through in-person confrontations.
It underscores the need for public education about the history and ongoing legacy of Indian Residential Schools in Canada, and for stronger support for survivors, families, and First Nations.
Despite these painful realities, I also see signs of progress. I see First Nations standing together and strong to defend our right to sovereignty and self-determination, particularly when it comes to free, prior, and informed consent over land and resource use.
I see more visible and meaningful representation of Indigenous peoples – in media, schools, and in our politics – but it still doesn’t fully reflect our presence, diversity, and stories.
And I see growing acknowledgement of Canada’s difficult past and steps forward on meaningful reconciliation, including a growing understanding that it is a practice, not a process.
This is what I would like people across Ontario to think on today while they mark National Indigenous Peoples Day.”