It is due to the courage and determination of former students—the Survivors of Canada’s residential school system—that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) was established. All Canadians must now demonstrate the same level of courage and determination, as we commit to an ongoing process of reconciliation. By establishing a new and respectful relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians, we will restore what must be restored, repair what must be repaired, and return what must be returned.Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, June 2015
The Ontario HIV Treatment Network (OHTN) is committed to uncovering and challenging systems of injustice. The OHTN acknowledges that the colonization of Canada and of all Turtle Island involved a systematic effort to destroy Indigenous Culture, break apart families, and extinguish the spirit of Indigenous Peoples: a process that caused devastating and long-lasting harm that is still felt today. The impact of colonization is reflected in the shorter life spans and poorer health outcomes experienced by Indigenous Peoples, including disproportionately high rates of HIV infection.
We strongly believe that Canada must come to terms with how its past and present actions have deeply impacted the lives, cultures, and wellbeing of Indigenous Peoples. These wrongs must be set right through a process of decolonization and recognition of Indigenous sovereignty.
As part of the OHTN’s contribution to Truth and Reconciliation, we remember all the children lost to residential schools and the many missing and murdered Indigenous women from across Ontario and Canada. We stand in solidarity with Indigenous Communities and we recognize their autonomy, knowledge, strength, and resilience. We honour the Indigenous Peoples lost to and impacted by HIV and remind ourselves that it is for these people and their communities that we strive to make change.
To mark Indigenous AIDS Awareness Week, we are sharing this statement of our collective commitment, as well as actions we will take. These actions were developed by staff through discussions that began on Thursday, September 30, 2021—the inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada—and through conversations with Indigenous colleagues. These discussions will continue.
As part of our commitment to establishing and maintaining mutually respectful relationships, we will continue to listen, learn, and work toward a better understanding of Indigenous Ways of Knowing, Healing Practices, and Knowledge Systems. Led by and working with Indigenous stakeholders and partners, we will strive to ensure that:
- We educate our staff about research done by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as an important first step toward decolonization;
- We respect the sovereignty of Indigenous Peoples over their data and the need to produce metrics that reflect the experiences of Indigenous Peoples living with or at risk of HIV;
- We support research and interventions that employ Indigenous research methodologies and serve to enhance Indigenous health and well-being;
- We support and promote culturally appropriate, as well as Indigenous -led, training and capacity-building opportunities for Indigenous People interested in careers in public health, health care, and research;
- Indigenous Peoples are represented on our Board, Committees, and initiatives, and Indigenous issues and perspectives are represented in the work we do;
- We work collaboratively with Indigenous partners and support them in their efforts to share Indigenous Ways of Knowing, Healing Practices, and Knowledge Systems , as well as Indigenous data specific to health and well-being;
- We update our inclusion policies, as well as our recruitment, hiring, and mentoring practices, to reduce barriers to employment for Indigenous Peoples and create a more inclusive recruitment process; and
- In 2022, we release the OHTN Truth and Reconciliation Action Plan, which will guide our work and set out the concrete steps we will take.
To learn more about how to support Indigenous Communities and the 94 recommendations made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, please visit the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation website: www.nctr.ca