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Advocacy Spotlight: Orange Shirt Day: The Mistreatment of Indigenous Communities Today

Orange Shirt Day is an annual national event meant to reflect on the mistreatment of Indigenous peoples.

Orange Shirt Day is an annual national event also celebrated at Carleton University - meant to reflect on the mistreatment of Indigenous peoples. When we think of the mistreatment of Indigenous people in the past we think of the past, while we should be looking at the current mistreatment as well. In this post we go over both the past, and current mistreatments of Indigenous peoples.

Late last month on September 30th, Carleton University took part in Canada's annual Orange Shirt Day to encourage students, staff, and the Carleton community to reflect on truth and reconciliation pertaining to Canada's mistreatment of Indigenous communities. On-campus students likely saw many of their peers and professors sporting orange shirts, and giving extra land acknowledgements to the Algonquin community, on which Carleton University was built.

Generally the day and the shirts push us to look at Canada's mistreatment of Indigenous people in the past - specifically between the 1870's and 1990's when residential schools were operating. But why overlook the current mistreatment of their communities? I encourage you to acknowledge Canada's cruel mistreatment of Indigenous communities not only hundreds of years ago, but also its persistence today.

All over the country, missing persons cases continue to persist in Indigenous demographics, and specifically Indigenous women. In fact compared to Anglo-American women, Indigenous Women experience 3 times more murder cases, which is at a rate 10 times higher than any other ethnicity. This startling statistic has given rise to the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women - or MMIW movement. The viral movement aims to bring awareness of statistics like this in hopes that the right officials know that we’re watching and that their blatant negligence will no longer be tolerated.

More recently, Indigenous communities in Ontario were given expired doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine which expired August 9th continued to be administered from the 13th to the 9th of the following month to dozens of members of the Saugeen First Nations. The error occurred as the expiration date was for the frozen vials, but after delivery the vials were thawed and deteriorated much quicker. Indigenous Services Canada ‘sincerely apologizes’ for the error, and although the expired vaccines caused no harm, they recommend a re-vaccination for anyone who received an expired dose.

The MMIW movement, and the expired vaccines are just the tip of today's iceberg. We also see flagrant mistreatment of Indigenous communities in every pipeline Canada builds through sacred lands, in every drinking water advisory on reserves, in every opportunity for apology that is avoided by our Government…

The fight for the equal treatment of Indigenous communities is far from over, so we let Orange Shirt Day be an attestation to our continued fight for the equality that is deserved.

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