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Reflecting on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

We have just begun to take the first steps on the road of reconciliation.

We recognize that we live on the ancestral and unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. On the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, also known as Orange Shirt Day, it is important to reflect on what that means.

The City of Vancouver sits on occupied territories that were stolen from the original inhabitants. Through violence, displacement and denial of rights, First Nations communities and families were dispossessed of their land, removed from their homes, and denied the ability to return. Indigenous children were forcibly taken from their homes and faced abuse and even death at Canada’s residential schools. These were acts of genocide committed by the Canadian state. Their impacts are intergenerational, and have resulted in Indigenous peoples’ ongoing marginalization and disempowerment.

The horrific crimes of the past, and their impacts today cannot be forgotten or ignored. As we acknowledge these impacts, we have a responsibility to address them, and build a future based on reconciliation, decolonization, and the recognition of Indigenous rights – especially the right to self-determination.

A better future for everyone who lives on these lands.

Building that future requires Vancouver to work collaboratively with the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations, and the urban Indigenous community, to create a city that is more inclusive and fair – and to recognize Indigenous leadership as First Nations advance their own priorities.

We can see hints of what that better future might look like today. It looks like the new housing development at Senakw, where the Squamish are building thousands of units of housing on their sovereign land, which will build intergenerational wealth for their people, while helping to address Vancouver’s dire housing shortage. And it looks like First Nations co-development of the City of Vancouver’s strategy for the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

These initiatives are reconciliation in action. They show that when Indigenous peoples secure and exercise their rights, everyone benefits.

A simple way to get involved is by supporting an Indigenous-led organization like the Urban Native Youth Association (UNYA) or the Indian Residential School Survivors Society. Many Indigenous leaders are asking us to wear an orange shirt today and throughout the year to demonstrate our support for Indigenous communities. You can learn more here.

We have just begun to take the first steps on the road of reconciliation. At times, it might be a hard road. But through collective action to address our common challenges, and through doing the work of reconciliation every day, we can build a better Vancouver – a city where future generations of Musqueam, Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Canadian people can live safely, securely and affordably.

Cara & Nadja, Co-Chairs 
OneCity Vancouver

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