September 30 marks the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a statutory holiday first called for by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in 2015 as one of the 94 Calls to Action to lay the groundwork for a more just and equitable future for Indigenous Peoples in Canada.
The day is meant to “honour Survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.” That legacy dominated the news cycle earlier this year, when more than 1,500 unmarked graves were rediscovered on several former residential school sites across Canada. Rather than spark a national reckoning, a few months later, the country has started to look away — even though it’s been estimated that tens of thousands of unmarked graves still need to be found.
The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is an opportunity to turn that around; a day for reflection and education on this horrifying part of our shared past, its continuing impacts and the need to make amends.
WWF-Canada will continue to actively advance reconciliation not just today, but every day — and we call on our supporters, allies and partners to join us. We share a collective responsibility to ensure Canadian institutions go beyond symbolic gestures and to work together toward proper justice for Indigenous Peoples.
We also commit to meeting and surpassing Call to Action 92 which calls upon the corporate sector, including charities, “to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) as a reconciliation framework and to apply its principles, norms, and standards to corporate policy and core operational activities involving Indigenous peoples and their lands and resources.”
In our work, we follow the guidance of our Indigenous collaborators and provide support, when requested, for priorities identified by Indigenous leaders and communities.
“To reconcile the wrong and make it right,” Mushkegowuk Council Grand Chief Jonathan Solomon said this summer, while announcing the first phase of an Indigenous-led National Marine Conservation Area, Indigenous people must once again “determine the managing, monitoring, conserving, and protecting of their homelands.”
To that end, WWF-Canada will continue to partner with First Nations, Inuit and Métis in their traditional lands and waters, when and where requested, including advocating for more Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas and Inuit Protected and Managed Areas where Indigenous governments and community organizations have the primary role in protecting and conserving ecosystems.
Indigenous-led conservation supports and embraces Indigenous guidance, knowledge, sovereignty and governance while focusing on the specific needs of local communities and nations. It plays a crucial role in conserving and restoring ecosystems, reversing wildlife loss and safeguarding carbon stocks, while ensuring economic stability, sustainable development and food security. Put simply, conservation with justice, equity and inclusion is essential to protect the nature we all cherish.
It’s worth remembering that residential schools are part of the country’s recent history — the last one was closed in 1996. Healing requires us all to play a role in recognizing and rectifying the ongoing reality of colonialism in Canada. Reconciliation is not limited to a single federal holiday.
It’s a goal that WWF-Canada will continue working toward every day.