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5 ways your nonprofit can take action now to support Indigenous communities

The news of 215 Indigenous children killed in a residential school in Kamloops, the community of Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc, is devastating. We grieve for these children, their families, and survivors, and the ancestors and legacies lost. Government-led colonialism has stripped Indigenous Peoples of their land, culture and belonging historically, and colonial violence remains a present reality. 

As a sector, it is a stark reminder that our sector is built on and benefits from colonialism. Indigenous Peoples have told us many times how colonialism and anti-Indigenous racism tears apart families and communities and takes away the ability for Indigenous self-determination and well-being. Yet, we have not prioritized using our social, political and financial capital to decolonize and advance truth and reconciliation.

It’s well past time for action.

Five ways for your nonprofit to take action

  1. Learn more about residential schools and the devastating impact on communities and generations of Indigenous Peoples or take a free course on Indigenous histories and contemporary issues through University of Alberta.
  2. Read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and commit to ways your organization will be accountable. 
  3. Advocate to the federal government to ensure the Calls to Action are implemented. Currently only 8 out of 94 calls have been completed. Read analysis from the Yellowhead Institute about the lack of action.
  4. Advocate to the Ontario government and your MPP for government to work with First Nations to survey sites for unmarked graves at Ontario’s former residential schools.
  5. Advocate for more public and private funding of nonprofits to be directed to Indigenous-led organizations and to issues Indigenous Peoples have identified need to be funded. 

The federal government’s response to the report on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls will be released June 3 and we will share perspectives and analysis from the network. We will continue to amplify our network’s voices and calls to action on truth and reconciliation and decolonization.

Supporting Indigenous nonprofits and communities

It’s important to recognize that Indigenous communities across Canada are in mourning. Now is not the time to ask them what settler organizations can do to help. They have already shared what actions can be taken many times, and in many ways. Now is the time for settler organizations and leaders to do their own homework and get moving. ONN recognizes that Indigenous workers and volunteers in the sector carry the burden of having to both deal with the legacy of colonialism and ongoing anti-Indigenous racism while continuing to serve their communities.

ONN’s commitment to truth and reconciliation

ONN has its own work to do. Embedded across our organization and our work, we have made specific commitments to settler-Indigenous reconciliation and to promote the self-determination and well-being of Indigenous communities. This includes advancing our learning about decolonization and reviewing the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

Based on our 2021- 2022 policy priorities, here is how ONN will support TRC’s Calls to Action:

  • Use an intersectional lens to highlight the differential impacts of our policy environment on Indigenous women, and to further a decent work movement in the nonprofit sector by engaging nonprofits to act on the TRC’s Calls to Action.
  • Advocate to the Ontario government for broadband across to facilitate Indigenous communities’ access to technology, and work with the sector to advocate for the rights and data ownership of communities, including Indigenous Peoples.
  • Advocate for the government to support nonprofit and cooperative enterprises to create jobs in urban, rural, and Northern Ontario, and particularly Indigenous communities. Investment in Indigenous communities must respect Treaties with Indigenous communities and uphold the principle of Indigenous development in Indigenous hands, as per Article 23 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
  • Advocate for the creation of tools to support Indigenous-led nonprofits to acquire and maintain real estate that provides nonprofit community housing, programs, services, and amenities. ONN will call for a nation-to-nation approach to resolving Indigenous land claims and upholding the UNDRIP, supporting Indigenous groups in this advocacy.

Our full policy priorities document is available here.

As a sector, we must integrate decolonization and advancing truth and reconciliation in our work and continue to hold it as a priority.

Here are some resources and readings from the ONN network to help you get started

We welcome further suggestions to continue to gather and amplify resources: info@theonn.ca.

  1. Anishinabek Nation – News and resources
  2. Toronto Aboriginal Support Services Council – Accessing Decent Work Report
  3. Indigenous Primary Health Council
  4. Statement from Native Child and Family Services Toronto
  5. Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Circles – Giving Thanks: Indigenous Prosperity
  6. Ontario Native Women’s Association


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