On June 2021, the Government of Canada passed Bill C-5 to name September 30 as a federal statutory day of remembrance. It is observed as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. September 30th is also known as Orange Shirt Day. It is a day where we commemorate, witness and honour the healing journeys of residential school survivors and their families. It is an invitation to engage in meaningful discussion with friends, family and colleagues about the history and continued legacy of the residential school system. At Dixon, September 30th also marks a day we recognize the overrepresentation of First Nations, Métis and Inuit women and girls as victims of violence in Canada.
Violence against Indigenous Women and Girls
Almost six in ten (56%) Indigenous women have experienced physical assault while almost half (46%) of Indigenous women have experienced sexual assault. In comparison, about a third of non-Indigenous women have experienced physical assault (34%) or sexual assault (33%) in their lifetime.
In order to understand the disproportionate experience of violence among Indigenous women, it is important to highlight the damaging history of colonialism which shifted the role of Indigenous women in the household and in Indigenous communities (Sharma et al. 2021). Prior to arrival of white men on Turtle Island, women held a significant place in Indigenous societies. Indigenous women held positions of leadership and wielded decision-making power. However, colonialism forcibly altered traditional matrilineal views while contributing to the normalization of violence against Indigenous women. In particular, policies such as the Indian Act denied Indigenous women of many rights and excluded Indigenous women from community governance (Sharma et al. 2021).
Below are some highlights from a recent study by the Canadian Centre for Justice and Community Safety Statistics on Violence against Indigenous Women in Canada:
- Almost six in ten (56%) Indigenous women have experienced physical assault while almost half (46%) of Indigenous women have experienced sexual assault. In comparison, about a third of non-Indigenous women have experienced physical assault (34%) or sexual assault (33%) in their lifetime.
- About two-thirds of First Nations (64%) and Métis (65%) women have experienced violent victimization in their lifetime.
- Indigenous women (42%) were more likely than non-Indigenous women (27%) to have been physically or sexually abused by an adult during childhood and to have experienced harsh parenting by a parent or guardian. These childhood experiences were associated with an increased prevalence of lifetime violent victimization.
- Indigenous women (17%) were more than twice as likely to report having not very much or no confidence in the police compared with non-Indigenous women (8.2%).
These disproportionately high rates of violence against Indigenous women is rooted in the traumatic and destructive history of colonization that continues to impact Indigenous families, communities and Canadian society overall. Understanding this context is important in moving forward with reconciliation.
What is Reconciliation?
When you hear the word “Reconciliation”, what does that mean? What can we do to make amends to a residential school system that has now been dismantled? To help guide us in defining this word, we can look to the TRC‘s definition of reconciliation:
“. . . Reconciliation is about establishing and maintaining a mutually respectful relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in this country. In order for that to happen, there has to be awareness of the past, an acknowledgement of the harm that has been inflicted, atonement for the causes, and action to change behaviour.”
We can also take a look to the list prepared by Indigenous Corporate Training Inc. of what reconciliation is and is not.
- A process
- About working towards solidarity as a society and country
- The responsibility of every Canadian
- Honouring treaties
- Acknowledging and respecting Indigenous rights and title
- Acknowledging and letting go of negative perceptions and stereotypes
- Acknowledging the past and ensuring that history never repeats
- Learning about Indigenous history
- Recognizing the inter-generational impacts of colonization, attempts at assimilation, and cultural genocide
- Recognizing the critical roles, Indigenous Peoples have held in the creation of Canada, their contributions to world wars to protect Canada
- Taking responsibility as a person, a parent, an employee, an employer to:
- Never utter, accept, or ignore a racist comment
- Never utter, accept, or ignore a statement that includes a stereotype about Indigenous Peoples
- Respect for:
- Indigenous individuals
- Indigenous beliefs, cultures, traditions, worldviews, challenges, and goals
- Recognition and support of the deep connections Indigenous Peoples have to the land.
- Supporting the reclamation of identity, language, culture, and nationhood
- Healing for all Canadians
- Good people doing good things
- Building relationships
- Never giving up despite setbacks
- An opportunity to move forward
- A commitment to taking a role and assuming responsibility in working towards a better future for every Canadian
Reconciliation is not:
- A trend
- A single gesture, action, or statement
- A box to be ticked
- About blame
- About guilt
- About the loss of rights for non-Indigenous Canadians
- Someone else’s responsibility
What can people do to mark the day?
There are many ways people may choose to spend this day. Here is a list created by the Newfoundland Labrador Public Libraries to help you get started:
- Wear an orange shirt or something orange (if you’re buying a shirt, make sure the proceeds support Indigenous groups)
- Take time to learn more about Canada’s Indian Residential Schools
- Talk to children about residential schools
- Read or re-read the 94 Calls to Action from the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
- Support Indigenous-led organizations in their continuing work on this and other issues
At Dixon, we understand that Indigenous women and girls often face unique barriers to accessing social services and have been disproportionately impacted by gender-based violence and systemic discrimination throughout Canadian history. For this reason, over the past year, Dixon has continued to make special efforts to serve Indigenous families and to ensure that 100% of Indigenous women in the Burnaby community feel safe in approaching, engaging, and eventually exiting our programs with a greater sense of empowerment.
If you or someone you know is in need of our services, please call our 24-hour intake line at 604-298-3454. For resources outside of the Lower Mainland, please call VictimLink BC at 1-800-563-0808. If you are in immediate danger, please call 911.