For the third year, the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation – also commemorated as Orange Shirt Day – has been observed on September 30. For some Canadians, this may be a controversial holiday. However, I believe that if each and every Canada resident  take a moment to consider how this day, and the reason for it, impacts Indigenous people in Canada, anyone can see its importance.

It is by understanding the history of Canada, including our history with Indigenous people, that we realize that reconciliation is more than just words, more than just actions. The legacy of colonialism, the relocation of communities, the marginalization, the human rights abuses, the treatment of MMIWG (including men and boys), the discrimination, all endured by Indigenous people, are only a few actions that have caused various degrees of trauma to First Nations, Metis and Inuit people of Canada. Sadly, these are some of the systemic barriers that Indigenous people pass on to each generation.

While we should not forget our history, we can do better for our future. There’s a role for all of us, regardless of our heritage, as outlined in the 94 Calls to Action released by the Truth and Reconciliation Report in 2015. And it is up to each of us to challenge ourselves and each other to continue this necessary process. So far, Canada has failed to implement many of the Calls to Action, with only 9 completed in 8 years.

As stated in the TRC report “…Reconciliation is about establishing and maintaining a mutually respectful relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in this country.” For us as Canadians to really understand what this day means, we need to take a moment to educate ourselves, to acknowledge the harms inflicted, to atone for the causes and to act meaningfully and with sincerity to change for the better.

At Equal Voice, we support all women in politics of all levels – be it the school parent advisory council, the local chief and council, the mayor and council or provincial/federal politics, Indigenous women need to be at the decision table to ensure that the voices of our communities are taken into consideration. By understanding the historical and the cultural significance of Indigenous people, we all understand the impacts of our decision (or lack of decision) on us and future generations. Since becoming a Board Member at EV, I’ve had the opportunity to meet some amazing women and discuss the importance of learning from each other, and each other’s history – and I’ve found more similarities than I ever thought!

In the spring of 2024, I’m delighted to lead Equal Voice’s first National Online Campaign School focused on supporting Indigenous women. We know that Indigenous women are changing our communities and already such powerful forces for strength and healing. I want to see more of us stepping into politics to change our collective experience with political systems across Canada. I see this is a real step on the path to reconciliation: more reflective representation and more political power.

Reconciliation is more than a process; it’s continuous; it’s complex; it’s needed.

Francyne D. Joe is a board member at Equal Voice. This opinion piece was published on October 10th at The Hill Times (available to subscribers).

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