Toronto – August 5, 2019 – Each year on August 9, we honour the contributions made by Indigenous Peoples across the world. More than 350 million Indigenous people reside in more than 90 countries, speak 7,000 languages combined, and represent 5,000 different cultures. On August 9, we also recognize our shared responsibility to listen, learn and educate ourselves on Indigenous rights with the goal of enforcing the protocols contained within the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
As a diverse union, we remain committed to ensuring that our union environment and member-led workplaces go beyond organizational models of diversity and inclusion. Truly inclusive organizations create spaces to ask the questions that are important to workers in the workplace and in the communities they live.
When it comes to Indigenous rights, as a country we have a lot of catch-up to do. The impact of colonization and the creation of the residential school system led to centuries of devaluing Indigenous culture, practices and existence. Only three out of about 70 Indigenous languages in Canada are expected to survive this century. In terms of education, schools on reserve First Nations students are funded at an annual rate of $3,000-7,000 less per student than other schools in Canada. This discriminatory shortfall in funding is a factor that has resulted in 40 First Nation communities without schools at all, and why only about half of all First Nations students on reserve ever graduate high school. We stand by our national partner, The Caring Society, in its call on the federal government to fully act on the orders of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal to address this discrimination.
At UFCW Canada and in conjunction with UFCW Local Unions across the country, we also continue to create spaces where UFCW Indigenous members’ opinions can be heard and aligned within our diversity and inclusion strategy through lobbying, Indigenous rights conferences and awareness-building campaigns.
As activists and community members, we must continue to work together in the ongoing struggle for full equality and opportunity for Indigenous Peoples in Canada and throughout the world. This August 9, I encourage you to get to know the protocols of UNDRIP and take part in Indigenous celebrations and Pow Wows taking place in your community.
Paul R. Meinema