Today the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) released its final report documenting the dark history and legacy of Canada’s residential school system, in which more than 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Metis children were subjected to systemic racism, abuse and other forms of mistreatment.
The final report, formed after six years of collecting testimony from more than 6,500 survivors, makes it clear that the physical and sexual abuse, and disease and death resulting from poor living conditions, are directly connected to the systemic racism First Nations people continue to experience today.
Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Yussuff responded to the report by thanking the survivors and echoing the commission’s call on governments to swiftly implement all the recommendations.
“We need to recognize the incredible courage and trust shown by the survivors who shared their stories. In order to do justice to that trust, the federal government must work with the provinces, territories and First Nations governments to ensure all the commission’s recommendations are passed without delay,” said Yussuff.
This includes the commission’s recommendation to sign on to and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as the framework for reconciliation.
However, Yussuff recognized today’s observation by commission chair Justice Murray Sinclair, that “reconciliation is not an Indigenous problem: it is a Canadian one.” Yussuff agreed that all sectors of Canadian society, not just governments, must do their part to dismantle systemic racism and support an indigenous-centred process of reconciliation.
Over the past several years, the Canadian Labour Congress and its affiliated unions have been working to support First Nations leadership to campaign on issues like safe drinking water on reserves, child welfare reform, and the need for a national inquiry on missing and murdered indigenous women.
The commission also raised specific labour issues, calling upon the federal government “to develop with Aboriginal groups a joint strategy to eliminate educational and employment gaps between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians.” Yussuff noted the unemployment rate of Indigenous Canadians has been in the double digits since 2007, compared to single-digit rates for non-Indigenous Canadians. When they are employed, Indigenous Canadians, particularly women, experience a significant income gap.
“All Canadians have a responsibility to further the reconciliation process. We in the labour movement will continue to support First Nations people on the issues the commission has raised,” Yussuff said.
Read the full report here.