FPSE celebrates 20th Anniversary of National Aboriginal Day

Today in Canada, as we celebrate the beginning of summer, we are also celebrating the 20th anniversary of National Aboriginal Day. First proclaimed by then-Governor-General Romeo LeBlanc in 1996, this day was created after years of requests by and consultation with indigenous organizations, as a way to recognize the unique heritage and diverse cultures of our First Nations, Inuit, and Metis peoples.

National Aboriginal Day falls 10 days after the National Day of Reconciliation, June 11, which marked the 2008 anniversary of the federal government’s apology to indigenous peoples harmed by the residential school system.

Last year, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released the report of its findings, and after decades of injustice, steps are finally being taken to provide redress to the tens of thousands of residential school survivors and the lasting legacy of the harm done to them. The report includes 94 Calls to Action, and several of those relate to education and to educators.

At FPSE, delegates at our Annual General Meeting and Convention in May celebrated the outstanding contribution of Aboriginal peoples and voted to "adopt, endorse, and actively work to implement the Calls to Action" and we are deeply committed to doing so. Our AGM featured a panel discussion on "First Nations Advocacy and Activism." We heard presentations from Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, from Deborah Jeffrey, Executive Director of First Nations Education Steering Committee, and from Sharon McIvor, President of FPSE’s Local 19, Nicola Valley Institute of Technology Employees’ Association. The panelists spoke about the "racism of low expectations" in the public school system. They spoke about education being a tool of colonization.

After hearing from the panel, delegates passed several action resolutions to engage on these issues, and as a result FPSE will launch a campaign on decolonization and reconciliation. As part of this process, please read the 94 Calls to Action; even better, take the time to read through the entire report. Much of it will not be comfortable, and we academics must acknowledge the ways in which we have been complicit in perpetuating the legacy of residential schools.

We can make choose to be part of a historic movement to redress this shameful legacy - or we can let the opportunity slip us by. Reconciliation requires the commitment and active participation of every one of us. On this 20th anniversary of National Aboriginal Day, let’s heed the Calls to Action and make education a tool of decolonization and reconciliation.


About FPSE

The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC is the provincial voice for faculty and staff in BC teaching universities, colleges and institutes, and in private sector institutions. FPSE member locals, represented by Presidents' Council and the Executive, represent over 10,000 faculty and staff at 18 public and 12 private sector institutions.