Indigenous Day: A Day to Celebrate Together


By Jack Bourassa 

Celebrated on June 21, National Indigenous Peoples’ Day is around the corner. It is an opportunity for all of us wherever we are to celebrate the rich indigenous peoples’ heritage, culture, contributions and resilience. However, it’s more than a celebration. This celebration is a statement of solidarity.

Whether you live North of 60 or elsewhere in Canada, the first step in genuine celebration is the land acknowledgment. I agree that statement of land acknowledgment is important, but I also invite you to go beyond the written and verbal words. Let the acknowledgment mean being grateful to the indigenous peoples and their ancestors who protected the land for countless generations. Let’s be grateful to the resilient indigenous peoples who despite all of the hardship, oppression, injustices and challenges they have faced, are still filled with love and hope, opening their arms for true reconciliation.

While we cannot change the past, we live in the present and look forward to the future. Let’s live together with love, care and respect. Let’s look forward to a future in which racism and discrimination are history— history that shall never repeat itself.

Initially, I wanted to focus on celebrations, aiming to spread joy. Before I do, I’d like to invite everyone to take a pledge to reinforce and promote reconciliation efforts in our communities. I’m grateful to be on this land and I’ve always been inspired by the resiliency of my indigenous sisters and brothers.

I look forward to celebrating Indigenous Day. A day that also marks the summer solstice and a promise of sunshine that will boost a full day of joy and energy. I can’t wait to be surrounded by members of my community, and also our union’s members, who will gather at events across the North to celebrate the day. Wherever you happen to be, mark your calendars to celebrate June 21.

There will be incredible music and performances. There will be great food— including delicious fish fry’s, depending on where you are. Let’s get together around art, food and music. Celebrating this day is celebrating Canada. It’s not enough to spread the message of tolerance. Let’s instead establish a culture of acceptance in our communities. Getting together and sharing the joy in one space is a way to establish acceptance within the community and pass it on to the next generation. There is no small action— every action has its ripple effect, many times over, that will last for generations.

Be prepared to see lots of great art, both visual and performing. Please be sure to support local indigenous artists. In addition, make sure that this day is a day for cultural appreciation.

Non-indigenous community members also need to be open to learn, to never make assumptions or cast judgments, and understand their role as allies. As a labour activist and a union leader, I often hear and come across issues of people whether in workplaces or elsewhere not having enough knowledge about indigenous people’s culture and traditions yet making assumptions all the while. If you don’t know, then ask. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, be respectful and come from an ally’s perspective. Questions with genuine good intention of learning are well received.

Taking the spirit of the day to every day must be the aim of the celebration. Thus, after the joys of the day, be prepared for tough conversations. If you pledged to be an ally, remain as one throughout the year. No matter if it’s your workplace or community, never let discrimination be tolerable. Have those conversations with people, including your loved ones. Each one of us has the power of the ripple effect, even if it means a conversation at a family dinner about the importance of honouring and recognizing indigenous people. Many Canadians have not learnt the true history through the educational system. Conversations that aim to raise awareness help. Can you be part of the positive change? Throughout the year, there will be events, rallies and vigils. Let’s be present. I believe that we all can be part of this change. We’re capable of performing miracles if we work together and stay in solidarity with each other.