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Toronto – June 14, 2022 – UFCW Canada Indigenous Sub-committee members led a special reconciliation-focused event at UFCW Canada’s National Office ahead of National Indigenous Peoples Day.
A Freeman Red Maple tree was planted, and a plaque unveiled in memory of Indigenous peoples who attended or survived the atrocities of residential schools. With representation from the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, along with diverse First Nations across Turtle Island, UFCW Canada Indigenous activists led the event with smudging, a pipe ceremony, songs and personal reflections on intergenerational trauma, resilience, and the power of kindness.
UFCW Canada Resident Elder Eric Flett engaged participants in tying red cloth to the newly planted Maple sapling in memory of missing and murdered Indigenous women, children and gender diverse peoples (2SMMIWG).
Elder Flett also led participants in the lighting of candles in memory of Indigenous children who were never provided a traditional burial alongside their loved ones since entering the residential school system.
The event was one in a series of actions annually coordinated by UFCW Canada’s Indigenous Sub-committee, which works diligently to support Indigenous members, advance advocacy and strengthen Indigenous-focused education and awareness throughout the union.
National President Paul Meinema was on hand to remind participants about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) Calls to Action 81 and 82, which speak to the importance of erecting residential school monuments in memory of children and survivors who did not return to their home communities.
“It was just a few days prior to the 2021 UFCW Canada Indigenous Sub-committee Virtual Conference that news outlets published the story about the 215 unmarked graves found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School,” says Meinema. “Now the number of unmarked graves discovered across Turtle Island is in the thousands. We need to learn from the horrors of our past and ensure we never repeat this history again.”
Shane Morse, Indigenous Sub-committee member and UFCW Local 1006A activist, reflected on the event as an important day to sit in our discomfort and learn from our past when he remarked, “How do we educate people in ways where all sides show humility?”
Ron Klassen, another founding member of UFCW Canada’s Indigenous Sub-committee, added, “That’s why we’re here, that’s why we’re having the reconciliation ceremony, because we need healing.”
Following the reconciliation ceremony, participants attended a fundraising barbecue where proceeds went to support the Anishnawbe Health Foundation.
To find out more about UFCW Canada’s work in support of Indigenous justice, visit our Indigenous Rights and Reconciliation webpage.