A Time to Reflect, Learn and Act

The month of June is an important opportunity for United Steelworkers members and all Canadians to celebrate and to learn about the cultural diversity and contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples as well as our own colonial legacy. 

June is National Indigenous History Month and June 21 is National Indigenous Peoples Day. This is a time not only to celebrate but also to reflect on the atrocities and injustices suffered by Indigenous people, many of which continue to this day. This month of recognition begins just days after the horrific discovery of a mass grave site in Kamloops, B.C where the bodies of 215 children were found. 

This is a heartbreaking reminder of just how far our nation is from reconciliation. An estimated 150,000 Indigenous, Métis and Inuit children were wrenched from their families and communities, many never to return. We still do not know how many other similar grave sites exist. 

When we look back on the residential school system that began under the first Prime Minister John A. Macdonald in 1876, to the last school that closed in 1996, we can understand more fully how and why intergenerational trauma exists. There are many other examples like this in our nation’s history and present experience.

The United Steelworkers union is committed to reconciliation and to holding our governments accountable for their responsibilities in addressing past and continuing injustices. As a union, we must push governments to honour the treaties that were signed by previous Canadian governments and prior to that, the British Crown.

In 2016, USW members from across Canada adopted a statement of principles on Indigenous issues to officially support reconciliation and socio-economic justice based on Indigenous rights, honouring treaties and meeting the principles and standards of the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

As we recognize National Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous Peoples Day, I would encourage all of you to reflect on the land that you are standing on and the traditional keepers of this land. We must continue our tradition of being agents of change, showing the respect and dignity that the Indigenous people of these lands deserve.

If you or your loved ones are a residential school survivor and need to talk, please call: the national Indian Residential School Crisis Line (1-866-925-4419).

In solidarity,

Marty Warren
USW District 6 Director

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