September 30, 2021, marks the first-ever National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Today, we honour the Survivors of government and church operated residential institutions (referred to as Indian Residential Schools), their families and communities, and the many children who never returned home. We also acknowledge the harms of colonization experienced by generations of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples across this land. 

Today is yet another opportunity to learn and engage in the deep work of decolonization and Reconciliation that lies ahead, and to reflect on the HIV burden carried disproportionately among Indigenous communities. As a sector, our journey along the path toward Truth and Reconciliation must be grounded in self-reflection and self-sufficiency. Also required is an acknowledgment of our privilege as settler organizations, of the inequitable distribution of resources, and contrition for our sector’s historical perpetuation of a colonialist and white supremist system.

Too often we have allowed systemic racism, anti-Indigenous discrimination, and a failure to consistently offer culturally relevant care and services to exist as barriers to Indigenous Peoples seeking support. As settler organizations, we have a duty to name and acknowledge our role in the intergenerational trauma faced by many Indigenous Peoples related to the ongoing and undue burden of HIV transmission propelled by colonialism and racism and discrimination. We also recognize the intergenerational traumas caused by the residential “school” and child welfare systems. 

As settlers, incumbent on us, not Indigenous Peoples, is the work of identifying gaps, harms, missteps, and setting clear goals along the path toward Reconciliation. It is time to move away from and beyond the historically ineffective and tiresome frameworks and prescriptive efforts to improve services and access for Indigenous people living with HIV and AIDS.

As ever, we must all continue to interrogate our often-idle commitments to enacting the Calls to Action from Truth and Reconciliation Commission established in 2015. We must continue to self-educate, reflect, and confront the disgraceful legacy of the residential “school” system, and the ways in which colonization continues to oppress, harm, and traumatize First Nation, Métis, and Inuit people.

As we move through this National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, we recognize and honour the decades-long history of leadership and action among Indigenous HIV/AIDS organizations as well as Elders and Knowledge Keepers serving communities in each of the four regions, and across the land. 

Embedding Reconciliation into your organization

Guidance for the HIV Sector in Ontario: Reconciliation in Action, A Community Process

The HIV sector’s Reconciliation in Action Guidance document supports service providers to undergo the critical steps of self-reflection, self-education, and self-assessment at all levels of their organizations, and to build trust and develop relationships with partners, Elders/Knowledge Keepers and Indigenous people living with HIV/AIDS. 

The guidance supports a commitment to listening deeply and heeding partner advice and input, particularly concerning the lack of meaningful engagement and inclusion of Indigenous people living with HIV/AIDS within our organizations and the broader sector.

Suggested Resources for Basic Self-Education

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada

Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future – Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada

What We Have Learned – Principles of Truth and Reconciliation, The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada

The Survivors Speak, A Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada

Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

We are all Treaty People (Full book, YouTube: Anishinabek Nation)

Education resources from Anishinabek Nation

CAAN Best Practices Manual

Indigenous Ally Toolkit

Need support?

If you are a Survivor and need emotional support, a national crisis line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week:

Residential School Survivor Support Line: 1-866-925-4419

Emotional, cultural and professional support services are also available to Survivors and their families through the Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program. Services can be accessed on an individual, family or group basis. In Ontario Call: 1-888-301-6426

Indigenous peoples across Canada can also go to The Hope for Wellness Help Line 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for counselling and crisis intervention.Call the toll-free Help Line at 1-855-242-3310 or connect to the online chat.