Upcoming Friendship Tour the start of relationship building and action
Today marks the second Truth and Reconciliation Day and Orange Shirt Day which began in 2013. This day is a day of observance of the atrocities committed by Canada against Indigenous peoples through the residential school system, and the ongoing structural violence against Indigenous peoples in what is currently called Canada.
Today, we are reflecting on and reaffirming our commitment to implementing the 94 Calls to Action made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girl’s Calls to Justice, and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). We would like to emphasize the importance of building relationships and solidarity as a necessary and foundational aspect of political action.
Call to Action #61 in the TRC’s 2015 report identifies the importance of relationship-building, emphasizing that reconciliation is “an ongoing individual and collective process involving all the people of Canada” that will strengthen “civic capacity for accountability.” The Calls to Action ask not only on governments, but also us as individuals and communities, to step up.
To put this into action, the Council of Canadians’ chapters and staff have begun work to plan the Kichi Sibi Friendship Tour, a series of gatherings and visits to Algonquin communities across the Ottawa River watershed, or Kichi Sibi. At its core, the tour is an effort to build relationships with, learn from, and take action alongside Algonquin communities not only around the protection of the Ottawa River watershed but also other critical issues facing these communities.
As part of the work to implement the Calls to Action, the Council of Canadians and its chapters are actively working to strengthen relationships to Indigenous nations across Turtle Island, but especially with our hosts, the Algonquin Anishinaabeg people.
Earlier this year, the Kitchissippi-Ottawa Valley and Ottawa chapters of the Council of Canadians stood alongside five Algonquin nations as they testified before the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission opposing the proposed nuclear waste site at Chalk River, and called on the Commission to respect free, prior, and informed consent from these communities. Highlighting the risk to the water, ecosystem, and people dependent on the Ottawa River watershed, chapter activists and staff identified the need to build authentic relationships and meaningfully engage with the rights and title holders of the land on which we live, work, and organize.
The Council of Canadians head office and two of its volunteer-led chapters (Kitchissippi-Ottawa Valley and Ottawa chapters) are on the unceded, unsurrendered territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabeg. There is no Treaty between the Algonquin Anishinaabeg and the Government of Canada, and the fact that the capital of Canada is located on occupied land is emblematic of the way that, even in places where Treaties were signed, the Canadian state has taken, settled, and extracted what it wanted from these lands.
The Friendship Tour reflects that almost every aspect of our work intersects with and prioritizes Indigenous title and sovereignty and the principles underlying UNDRIP. For decades, Council of Canadians chapters, staff, and supporters from coast to coast to coast have worked extensively in solidarity and alliances with Indigenous Peoples resisting fossil fuels projects, advancing climate and water justice, and supporting Indigenous rights across Turtle Island.
The important work that staff and chapter activists did alongside Indigenous activists, organizers, and land defenders reinforced for us as an organization not only how much more we can accomplish in the fight for social and environmental justice when we work in support of, and alongside, Indigenous people and communities who are already – and long have been – doing the work, but how much more work we have to do to build and deepen relationship with Indigenous people in what is currently called Canada. Meaningful reconciliation is about more than just mobilizing whenever a particular issue that aligns with our mission and mandate finds us working alongside Indigenous communities for a common goal.
The Council of Canadians’ motto is “People. Planet. Democracy.” None of those things can thrive without Indigenous knowledges, without Indigenous rights and sovereignty. So many of the things we’re fighting for as an organization – clean water and air, the commons, a habitable planet – requires relationship, understanding, and solidarity with Indigenous people, communities, and culture.
On the second annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and a decade since Orange Shirt Day began, the Council of Canadians is recommitting itself to earning trust in Indigenous communities and showing up in support of Indigenous-led movements in ways that are meaningful, impactful, and long-term.
The Kichi Sibi Friendship Tour reaffirms our commitment to be teachable, and to respect the reality that Indigenous people have been fighting back against colonialism and exploitation since long before Confederation. When it comes to the fight for social and environmental justice, we are not welcoming them to a movement we built, we are acknowledging, with respect and gratitude, the trail they’ve blazed.