July 1st Should be a Day of Reflection

As we draw closer to July 1st, I think it is important for us to reflect on the complicated legacy of the origins of our country.  

In recent weeks, the mass unmarked graves of Indigenous children who died at the hands of the violent residential school system that operated for over 100 years, have been found in Kamloops, Brandon, the Marieval Residential School in Saskatchewan and most recently in St Eugen's Mission School in BC's InteriorThe search for these graves has been something Indigenous communities have been demanding for a very a long time but is something that most Canadians may be coming to terms with for the first time. 

It can be difficult to grapple with the fact that something you might have been taught was without flaws or had very little flaws can have such a dark and traumatizing history. Or that people you were once taught to look up to and admire are actually people who were historically complicit in unspeakable acts such as the violence and genocide that occurred at residential schools (and is still occurring today in other ways) – but these historical tragedies are not matters of opinion, they are facts and reflecting on them is not only important but necessary.  

Critically reflecting on these facts and embracing calls from Indigenous communities for reconciliation and justice does not mean you are erasing history but that you are attempting to create a better future.  

We must respect the calls of our Indigenous comrades in and outside of the labour movement and push for a society that is based around justice and decolonization.  

As transit professionals, we call upon other cities to follow the lead of cities like Edmonton who recently decided to rename their LRT station that had been named after bishop known for being an architect of the residential school system. All jurisdictions must perform an audit of transit systems for references to colonialism and residential schools.  

Further, we call on the federal government to enact all 94 recommendations in the Truth and Reconciliation Report as well as the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) Report that called for among other things; adequate intercity bus transit because travelling safely should be everyone’s right.  

In the words of the Ontario Member of Provincial Parliament for Kiiwetinoong, Sol Mamakwa, this year, July 1st should not be about picnics and fireworks” but to spend the day reflecting, remembering all we have lost and how to move forward. 

John Di Nino, President 

ATU Canada