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The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation: A Path to Equity

Original Article

Warning: This article discusses the history of residential schools in Canada, which may be triggering for some readers. We approach this subject with utmost respect and empathy to promote understanding, reconciliation, and positive change. If you find the subject matter emotionally challenging, we recommend proceeding with caution or seeking support as needed.

Each year, on September 30th, Canadians commemorate the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. This day acknowledges the painful history and enduring consequences of residential schools on Indigenous communities, their children, and their descendants. It is a day to remember those who never returned home and to honour the survivors, their families and communities. It is also a day that calls on all Canadians to engage in reconciliation efforts. It's a day to remember, reflect, and take action.

History of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (NDTR) was established through legislative amendments made by Parliament. It is a federal statutory holiday designed to commemorate the tragic history of residential schools in Canada. These institutions operated from 1867 to 1996 and were responsible for separating Indigenous children from their families, culture, and identity, leading to profound intergenerational trauma.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which ran from 2008 to 2015, provided survivors and those affected with opportunities to share their stories and experiences. The Commission's final report included 94 calls to action, one of which led to the creation of this important day. It is a tangible step toward acknowledging the past, seeking accountability, and fostering reconciliation.

Wearing Orange to Remember

On September 30th, we encourage all Canadians to wear orange to show solidarity with residential school survivors. #OrangeShirtDay is an Indigenous-led grassroots initiative that aligns with the #NDTR. The orange shirt is a symbol of the cultural and personal freedom stripped away from Indigenous children over generations. It's a reminder of the importance of acknowledging this dark chapter in Canadian history and working toward a more inclusive and equitable future. 

The Challenge Persists in the Workplace

In Canada, the First Nations, Inuit, and M├ętis population has grown rapidly over the last decade, a trend that is anticipated to continue. This demographic shift signifies a rising supply and potential demand for employment among Indigenous populations. However, despite advancements in educational attainment, Indigenous people continue to be underrepresented in the workplace in Canada. As of 2017, over a quarter of a million First Nations individuals, aged 25 to 54, lived off reserve, yet the employment rate within this group stood at 66.7%. Notably, First Nations women have been further marginalized in the labour market, with a lower employment rate of 63.4% compared to their male counterparts at 70.8%.

As mentioned by Christy Smith, a member of the Komoks Nation and vice-president of Indigenous and stakeholder relations at British Columbia-based Falkirk Environmental, organizations are not doing enough to make space for Indigenous voices and create a diverse conversation at the table. In Canada, substantial barriers persist in the recruitment, retention, and advancement of Indigenous talent within the workforce. 

To address these challenges, in support of Call to Action 92, we urge the corporate sector in Canada to embrace the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a pivotal framework for reconciliation. We believe that integrating the principles, norms, and standards into corporate policies and core operational activities involving Indigenous peoples and their lands and resources is essential for this progress. By doing so, we will collectively advance our journey towards a more equitable and inclusive future where Indigenous voices are respected and valued.

A Shared Journey Toward Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

At the UN Global Compact Network Canada, we acknowledge the significance of the #NDTR and its connection to the broader mission of achieving equity and inclusion. We are steadfast in our commitment to addressing the injustices of the past while actively shaping a more inclusive future. 

We are proud to be an official Ecosystem Partner of the #50_30Challenge, a transformative initiative by the Government of Canada. The goal of the #50_30Challenge is to increase diversity and representation in businesses, nonprofits, and institutions across Canada. Organizations that are signatories to the challenge are expected to meet the following targets within their organizational structure:

  1. 50% representation of women or gender non-binary individuals on boards and/or in senior management roles;
  2. 30% representation of equity-deserving groups (racialized people, Indigenous people, those with disabilities, and members of the LGBTQI2S+ community) on boards and/or in senior management roles.

Our three-year project, The FutureIsEqual: Enabling Ecosystems of Support in Canada, stands as a testament to our commitment. The project offers a series of workshops in collaboration with the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion. These workshops are specifically designed to help organizations build greater capacity for #DEI efforts, align with the #GlobalGoals, and extend support to #Indigenous communities.

The #NDTR and the #50_30Challenge share a common thread: the pursuit of diversity, equity, and inclusion. By commemorating this significant day and participating in our workshops, organizations can take concrete steps toward forging a more equitable and inclusive workspace landscape in Canada. Together, we contribute to a brighter future for all and leave no one behind. 

Learn more about our #TheFutureIsEqual project that provides services and assistance to organizations committed to meeting the #50_30Challenge representation goals here.

Written by Lexi Yixuan Ma, Marketing and Communication Coordinator, UN Global Compact Network Canada

30 September 2023

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