June marks National Indigenous History month to honour the history, heritage and diversity of Indigenous peoples across Turtle Island. This month is a time for us to learn and acknowledge the contributions and sacrifices of First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities.
It is important to recognize that we all play a role in the restitution of the Indigenous communities. It is up to all Canadians to educate themselves on the past and current realities of Indigenous peoples. A good place to start this education journey is to read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: 94 Calls to Action. These calls to action have been made by the Indigenous peoples to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of reconciliation. Unfortunately, many of these calls have yet to be addressed.
This month for Indigenous peoples is a difficult one. A few weeks ago, the remains of 215 children were found at the former Kamloops residential school. These numbers are constantly on the rise and will continue to rise. Today, hundreds of burial sites have been found on the grounds of the former Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan. This is a reminder of the atrocities, sacrifices, and suffering Indigenous communities have had to endure generationally. In my role with the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Network in the DAN Women and Babies Program, the death of these children and the pain their families have been enduring resonated strongly with the bereaved families who have lost their babies; families recognizing the pain of other bereaved families.
As the Special Projects Coordinator with the Pregnancy and Infant Loss (PAIL) Network, I am working with the PAIL team to bring peer support and programs to bereaved families in Indigenous communities across Ontario. This is very important work that we are taking on, starting with education and awareness about the unique grief needs of families, and how health care professionals can offer skilled and compassionate care when a baby has died. I look forward to when we can visit the communities in person and learn more about how we can work together to support Indigenous families who have suffered a pregnancy loss or infant death.
We all have a long way to go in the restitution of Indigenous communities and we all play a role in being strong allies to Indigenous peoples. Let’s all work together to ensure a positive and collaborative future between Canadians and Indigenous peoples.
Joanna Diindiisikwe Simmons
For those who need immediate assistance, please call the National Indian Residential School Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419.