Labour Views: If you’re not an ally, what are you?

June is both, Indigenous History Month and Pride Month. With the long northern summer days, there is a promise that there is always light at the end tunnel— and the light is bright and shining. This month and every month let’s take the pledge to be the light by taking action to end all forms of discrimination that Indigenous individuals and communities face across this land, Canada. Let’s pledge to take action to defend the rights of LGBTQ2+ individuals and communities.

This column’s headline is inspired by a video that Nunavut Employees Union President Jason Rochon shared across social media to celebrate Pride Month. He said: “If you’re not an ally, what are you?” Although, I’m writing about a different topic, this strikes home. Today, I’m dedicating this space to reflect on what it means to be an ally this month and throughout the year. Survivors, families of Survivors, partners and allies and many others who have joined in the pursuit of Truth and Justice. How to celebrate and honour Indigenous Day as an ally?

Indigenous Day, June 21, is around the corner. It’s dedicated to celebrating the rich history, culture and contributions of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis Indigenous peoples. It’s a holiday for many workers across the North. Let’s take the time to celebrate, learn and most importantly to pledge to be allies. You don’t have to be Indigenous to defend the rights and self-determination of Indigenous Peoples on this land, Canada. Allies are welcome— and the least we could do is to be good listeners and remain in solidarity.

There are many actions to consider on this day, especially contributing to inter-community support and learning. We emphasize on actions that we could take to put pressure on municipal, territorial, provincial and federal governments to implement all Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Calls to Action.

Again, this year we shed light on Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call to Action 57:

We call upon federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to provide education to public servants on the history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal–Crown relations. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.”

We can’t afford to close our eyes. Education and awareness are essential in order to genuinely walk on the path of Truth and Reconciliation. Using this space, I call on governments to implement Action 57. And I’m asking you for help, call your city, members of legislative assemblies, members of parliament and leaders. Raise awareness and demand immediate action.

Indigenous peoples and communities are not to be constrained in the efforts of continuing to expose the truths that have been spoken for years. A year ago, mass graves of children were found at Kamloops. Thousands of graves were found at other former residential schools’ sites in Canada. While Indigenous Day is a day of celebration, everyday is to honour the victims and survivors. Demand justice. Indigenous Day and everyday be present in our solidarity with families of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two Spirit Individuals. A report released by Native Women’s Association of Canada last week, the federal government’s National Action Plan to address violence against Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people made very little progress over the past year “to reduce the shocking number of murders and disappearances.” According to NWAC’s report, “Between 2015 and 2020 (the most recent year for which numbers are available), Indigenous women accounted for 24 per cent of all female homicide victims in Canada, even though they make up just five per cent of the country’s female population. There is nothing to suggest that those crimes are on the decline.”

You and I, WE can, and must, take action. I can’t say enough how important it is to learn, listen, raise awareness and share credible information. There are the first steps in being allies. 

Are you planning to attend an event on Indigenous Day? There will be cultural events across the North. If you decide to attend as an ally, you’ll receive a warm welcome and open arms and hearts. Be an ally and stay in solidarity.

I want to end with this thought-provoking quote from Marie Wilson, one of the three Truth and Reconciliation Commissioners. This quote is from her speech at an academic event in University of Alberta:

“We have been investing in our collective ignorance, and we have to stop.”

This article originally appeared in the Yellowknifer on June 8, 2022