“For First Nations, the past 150 years has been a history of colonialism marked by a tragic and avoidable shift in our relationship from partnership to colonialism. As peoples, we have endured the genocide of the Indian Residential Schools system and the oppression of the Indian Act.
There continues to be many forms of exclusion and denial of Indigenous rights and title. And there are serious issues of systemic discrimination to address in the laws and policies that reflect racist legal doctrines like the doctrine of discovery. Yet, we have persevered. Our cultures and ceremonies persist and prevail. Our languages are still spoken and we are determined to secure the support they deserve to be protected, preserved and promoted, Every day, First Nations are reasserting inherent jurisdiction and Treaty rights.
We are nations by virtue of possessing our own unique laws, languages, lands, citizens, governance and spirituality. Our presence as nations is literally as old as human memory in this land.
We respect and embrace those who want to acknowledge our resilience on this day, and those who choose not to participate. We hold up First Nations youth and Elders and the many who are seizing this opportunity to create dialogue and educate Canadians on the history of our relationship and the need to renew that relationship based on rights recognition and implementation.
We all demand action, recognition and reconciliation. We all must stand up for Treaty and inherent rights. We can make progress through joint work and tangible, concrete measures to close the gap between First Nations and Canadians.
My message today is that we are still here, our voices are getting louder and we are getting stronger.”
The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.
Regional Chief Isadore Day Statement:
Canada 150 years of suffering
150 Years Not a Celebration
TORONTO - Jun. 29, 2017 - “On July 1st, 2017, Canadians will be gathering across the country to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation, the formation of both Canada and the Province of Ontario. This call for celebration presents First Nations with a poignant moment.
First Nations were the First Peoples to govern this land, now known as Canada, and were present for thousands of years prior to Confederation as self-determining Nations with distinct cultures, languages, laws, traditions, and a unique understanding of the land and environment.
While we acknowledge the formation of Canada and Ontario 150 years past, our true and shared history goes much further, to a time when we First Nations were the economic driving force and held the balance of power prior to the creation of what is now known as Canada.
For First Nations in Ontario the 150th anniversary of Confederation is little cause for celebration, as it represents 150 years of assimilation, genocide, neglect and marginalization. Ultimately this makes it very difficult for us to come out and celebrate and embrace these last 150 years of colonization.
We share a history that is painful and is filled with raw memories, which remain in our communities from our elders through to our youth that must never be forgotten, downplayed or misrepresented.
And despite platitudes about reconciliation since the tabling of the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission we are being asked to celebrate Canada 150 instead of participating in a national effort to encourage reconciliation. As a result the Ontario Chiefs in Assembly resolved by way of resolution 37/17, to take a stand against Canada 150, and to strongly encourage all First Nations, affiliated organizations, and members to boycott Canada 150 celebrations both on-reserve and in urban centres.
By recognizing this painful past and embracing a renewed sense of determination to move forward in a nation-to-nation relationship, the next 150 years need not be a repeat of this terrible past. We must move forward in the spirit of the reconciliation, as partners and advance the renewal of our founding relationships and the recognition of our Inherent rights and sovereignty over our own affairs.
Upon deep personal reflection this does not need to be only a lamentation, but rather I see this occasion as a reminder that when working in true partnership progress can be made. After all 150 years ago, a political accord between the Ontario Government and First Nations in Ontario would have been inconceivable.
It is my responsibility as Regional Chief, to express who we are as First Nations, promote the understanding that First Nations are the original peoples of Canada, and that the cultures, customs and languages of First Nations comprise a fundamental characteristic of Canadian heritage and identity.
I know that as Regional Chief, in order to succeed we must lead, that is why every day I am fuelled by the eagerness, passion and hope in our young people for a brighter future, together and in strength we will create this future.
Canadians and First Nations must work together to ensure the next 150 years are worth celebrating together.”
Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day
The Chiefs of Ontario is a political forum and a secretariat for collective decision making, action, and advocacy for the 133 First Nation communities located within the boundaries of the province of Ontario, Canada. Follow Chiefs of Ontario on Facebook or Twitter @ChiefsOfOntario.