Statement on National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

On this first annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, we at SVPRO want to share in the immense grief and loss that has brought us to this day, while simultaneously embracing Indigenous resistance. As grief needs collective, active acknowledgement — resistance deserves our collective celebration and participation.

Sexual violence is devastating and unjust, whether it happens at Western, at UBC, or anywhere around the globe. Our hearts are with survivors everywhere. It is for you, and for all of us that we work to end sexual violence. To that end, we want to talk about a phrase commonly used to describe the high rate of sexual violence experienced by young women in the first few weeks of their first year at university.

Our message to those who have been impacted:

The last several months have been filled with mourning for Indigenous communities across this country. You spoke of these atrocities for years without acknowledgement from those who were complicit in these acts. Your pain became a national talking point – an election issue. While families are still grieving the loss of generations. There are no words big enough to express the depth of our sorrow. As settlers on your land, we offer our immense regret and pledge our solidarity. This cannot go unanswered by those who continue to perpetrate colonial violence against Indigenous peoples and communities every day. Your continued existence and, more so, your continued resistance in the face of overwhelming state and systemic violence is humbling. We celebrate you. Today, and every day.

For those who, like us, are listening and learning, we wish to say:

Reconciliation has become a buzz word used frequently by those who don’t really understand it. Reconciliation is supposed to be about addressing past wrongs done to Indigenous Peoples, making amends, and improving relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to create a better future for all. But reconciliation alone won’t create a better future for anyone. We can’t try to force reconciliation when harm continues to this day. What we need is to be accountable.

Only by addressing the root causes of ongoing oppression and violence – colonization, capitalism, racism, patriarchy, cisexism, ableism, and all related intersections – will we be able to address the harm experienced by Indigenous Peoples to this day. We have to decolonize the world we live in. This means actively intervening to end harmful practices, including ending birth alerts and child apprehensions that recreate the violence of kidnapping and assimilation, just as occurred in residential “schools”. Cessation of land development and resource projects that are not rooted in true consent from Indigenous Nations. Eliminating the infrastructure gaps that leave reserve communities without access to the essentials of life. Full funding for Indigenous language reclamation and instruction, because language is culture and the path to re-Indigenizing. Current social service systems, including university, that replicate colonial harm must be replaced by social services provided by, for, and within Indigenous communities—using Indigenous models, and accountable to Indigenous communities, not federal funders.

Today, though, actions and reactions from settlers cannot and should not be centred. We acknowledge our grief, but we choose to honour and learn from Indigenous joy as resistance. To everyone across Turtle Island, we join in recognizing:

“As much as there is suffering in our communities, and things are really hard, and colonialism works to make things challenging for us – every single community has joy and is thriving in whatever ways that it can.” — Molly Swain

We know that Indigenous futurity is the way forward, and we are here to listen and offer our solidarity. Taking what action we can to uplift, support, and fund Indigenous resistance is how we start walking down the road together towards an end to genocide in Canada.

In Solidarity,

Lauren, Ogake, Sasha, Alicia, Ariana, Erin, Habi