As members of Toronto350 who are either descendants of earlier colonialists or more recent immigrants, we acknowledge that we are settlers on the historic territories of many Indigenous peoples. We also recognize that “Canada” is made up of lands that were stolen from different Indigenous Nations. The Colonial powers wanted the lands.
We read that there is no consensus on how many Indigenous individuals and peoples lived on Turtle Island when Europeans first arrived. However, at a minimum, there appears to have been well over 500,000 Indigenous peoples living in hundreds of Nations spread across the land. It is also clear that there was a massive decline in the numbers of Indigenous peoples living in Turtle Island after settlers arrived. Indigenous peoples were driven to starvation, murdered and died from diseases brought by Europeans. In 1867, Canadian authorities recorded that there were 125,000 Indigenous individuals living in “Canada.” That number fell to 113,724 in 1921. This is a history of genocide.
Today, Statistics Canada estimates that there are 1.67 million Indigenous individuals living across Turtle Island. These numbers also document the determination of Indigenous peoples to survive.
When Indigenous ancestors refused to disappear, the Canadian government tried to force assimilation through the residential school system. They also sought to wipe out Indigenous cultures and languages. This is cultural genocide.
We write this letter in sorrow but we are also grateful for Indigenous peoples, their principles and unyielding commitment to the land, as well as their efforts to oppose pipelines and fight climate degradation throughout their territories.
On this first national day of Truth and Reconciliation, we want to express our solidarity and our gratitude.
To Learn More
National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation - Residential School History: https://nctr.ca/education/teaching-resources/residential-school-history/
Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s "The Survivors Speak" report: https://ehprnh2mwo3.exactdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Survivors_Speak_English_Web.pdf
Watch and Listen:
The Breach: Taking Children Taking Land
Hot Take: There's No Climate Justice Without Indigenous Sovereignty, with Rebecca Nagle https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/theres-no-climate-justice-without-indigenous-sovereignty/id1488414960?i=1000490239886
Indian Residential School Survivor's Society: https://www.irsss.ca/donate