Grand Chief Stewart Phillip slams 'colossal lack of leadership' in tackling racism in Canada
June 21 marks the 25th annual National Indigenous Peoples Day
As Canada marked the 25th annual National Indigenous Peoples Day on Monday, the president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs called on leaders from all levels of government to acknowledge that racism is a problem in our country and to take action to help change that.
"There has been a colossal lack of leadership in this country, starting from the prime minister," Grand Chief Stewart Phillip said on the CBC's The Early Edition.
"We need leaders to stand up and to purge racist notions and racist values from society at every opportunity."
As one of six siblings who was taken away from his parents and placed in a child-care system while his older siblings went to residential school, Phillip said he still remembers the sense of abandonment and isolation he experienced as a child.
"My younger brothers and sisters, including myself, were placed in white foster homes with no exposure to our family, community culture or language." Phillip said on the CBC's The Early Edition. "I don't speak our language. I don't dance or drum and sing, and for me, those are a big emptiness in my heart."
He said Canada needs a paradigm shift for reconciliation to be possible, as Indigenous people still continue to receive unfair and inequitable treatment to this day.
"Racism is a very, very serious issue in Canada and yet governments continue to deny that this terrible affliction that hamstrings all sectors of society is still very much alive," Phillip said.
"Canada deserves better and we need to do better."
Small steps forward
Bob Joseph, the author of 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act: Helping Canadians Make Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples a Reality, says over the last month he's had an increased number of people reach out to him on social media to apologize and learn more.
"A lot of friends and family and strangers, wanting to apologize, not knowing what's happened, wondering what they can do really in terms of helping reconciliation," he said on the CBC's On the Island.
To learn more, he recommends going through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's 94 calls to action first, and then connecting with Indigenous organizations and groups in your region or community.
"See if there's some Indigenous event that you can participate in or maybe consider donating to Indigenous organizations to help out some of the challenges that they have," Joseph said.
With files from The Early Edition