(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde issued the following statement on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, marked every year on March 21:
“Canada is embarking on a new era of reconciliation. This requires us all to confront hard truths about our shared history and our current reality. In recent weeks and months, many Canadians have witnessed incidents that show how the system and society is failing First Nations, our families and our children – from court rulings that deny justice for our peoples, to expressions of racism and intolerance by Senators and other officials, to hateful and harmful incidents in towns and cities across the country.
First Nations know this reality firsthand because it is our lived experience far too often. Our colonial past is holding us back. But together we can make the changes needed to overcome it and move forward.
I believe that education and awareness lead to understanding and action. I believe more and more Canadians are standing with First Nations and standing up for justice. We can build on this understanding and momentum.
On the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, I am calling on all levels of government to commit to working with First Nations to develop a national strategy to address racism in Canada.
The federal government can show leadership by driving this initiative and taking a hard look at its own laws, policies and institutions, and working with First Nations to set in place a new foundation of rights, respect and recognition. They can support other governments in doing the same. Provincial governments can work with First Nations and Indigenous peoples to build bridges and plans for action. Municipalities can work with our people in urban areas on strategies that make a real difference on the ground and in the streets.
It’s encouraging that this kind of work is already happening in some places. Let’s support success and create a stronger country for all of us. When First Nations succeed, Canada succeeds. We can eliminate racism and embark on a new era of reconciliation.”
The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed annually on March 21. This year’s theme is “Promoting tolerance, inclusion, unity and respect for diversity in the context of combating racial discrimination.”
The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.
For more information please contact:
National Chief’s Office
Bilingual Communications Officer
613-241-6789 ext. 382
Jenna Young Castro
AFN Communications Officer
613-241-6789 ext. 201