National Indigenous Peoples Day an Opportunity to Highlight First Nation Successes and Educate Canadians on Work Needed to Break the Colonial Chains of Poverty and Despair
ATTAWAPISKAT – Tomorrow, the summer solstice and longest day of the year marks National Indigenous Peoples Day, which reminds all Canadians that we are the First Peoples of this land. Today, I am in Kashechewan First Nation to celebrate the first anniversary of a tripartite agreement between the community, Canada and Ontario. An action plan has been developed to improve outcomes in priority areas including housing, socio-economic sustainability, health programs and facilities, infrastructure development, schools and community facilities.
Sixty years ago, the community of Kashechewan was placed on a floodplain by bureaucrats from Ottawa. As a result of almost yearly severe spring flooding, the residents are evacuated and their homes destroyed. This spring, 550 children, and elders were evacuated. This is heart-breaking as we all know how painful and stressful it is when families are separated, whether it’s our children in care or Indigenous migrant children in detention. If there is any example of the bureaucratic chaos caused by the Indian Act, it is here in Kashechewan.
The theme of today’s event in Kashechewan is Together We Work for Hope, which should resonate with all Canadians. This work is the way forward in order to create happy healthy communities. As Chief Leo Friday has stated “After many years of struggle, we are partnering with the Government of Canada and Ontario to help my people. We will work together to ensure that we provide the proper tools to become successful and create role models for the future generations.”
I am eager to find out how far Canada, Ontario, and Kashechewan have moved on the critical planning towards the end goal of community re-location. Clearly, the community has laid out their desire and expectations to move to higher ground. It will be important for governments to apply their best effort to achieve the proposed schedules and much-needed investments.
Tomorrow, I will be spending National Indigenous Peoples Day in Attawapiskat First Nation, another community that has similar challenges such as lack of housing, drug abuse, and suicide crises. However, we must remain hopeful that one day the summer sun will shine stronger than ever upon our Peoples. We will celebrate our culture, our history, our children, our Elders. We will finally celebrate our rightful place in Canada.
Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day