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Indigenous Awareness (Part 1): What You Need To Know First

Updated: Nov 17, 2022

Before engaging with Indigenous Communities, you will need to understand the following information in this short guide.

The following overview is a brief introduction to Indigenous Awareness which covers some of the history behind Residential Schools and the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions Calls to Action.

For those of you who are about to work with Indigenous Communities or are interested in working with Indigenous Communities, the following information is something that you will need to know and understand before you start your engagement activities.

If you have any questions or need someone to talk with regarding your Indigenous engagement and awareness activities, please give us a call at (705) 657-1126 or by email: (See Indigenous Awareness Training Part 2 and Indigenous Awareness Training Part 3 for the continuation)

Chi Miigwetch!

Residential Schools

• In the early 1600s, Catholic nuns and priests established the first residential schools in Canada

• In 1883, these schools began to receive funding from the federal government when the Government of Canada created the residential school system.

• The main goal of the system was to assimilate Indigenous children into white, Christian society

• These schools operated between 1831 and 1996 and over 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were forced to attend during this period. Thousands died

either at school, or because of their experiences in the system. Many more remain missing.

139 Indian Residential Schools Across Canada

18 known to operate in Ontario

• Bishop Horden Hall (Moose Fort, Moose Factory), Moose Factory Island

• Cecilia Jeffrey (Kenora, Shoal Lake), Kenora

• Chapleau (St. John's), Chapleau

• Cristal Lake, Northwestern Ontario

• Fort Frances (St. Margaret's), Fort Frances

• Fort William (St. Joseph's), Fort William

• McIntosh, McIntosh

• Mohawk Institute, Brantford

• Mount Elgin (Muncey, St. Thomas), Munceytown

• Pelican Lake (Pelican Falls), Sioux Lookout

• Poplar Hill, Poplar Hill

• St. Anne's (Fort Albany), Fort Albany

• St. Mary's (Kenora, St. Anthony's), Kenora

• Shingwauk, Sault Ste. Marie

• Spanish Boys' School (Charles Garnier, St. Joseph's, formerly Wikwemikong Industrial), Spanish

• Spanish Girls' School (St. Joseph's, St. Peter's, St. Anne's, formerly Wikiwemikong Industrial), Spanish

• Stirland Lake (Wahbon Bay Academy), Stirland Lake

• Wawanosh, Sault Ste. Marie

Indian Day Schools

• These schools were not included in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission or the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement

• Close to 200,000 First Nations, Inuit, Métis and non-status Indian children attended Day schools and like residential schools

• Day schools were schools run by the Canadian government and Christian churches where First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were sent during the day, but lived with their

parents and remained in their Communities.

Indian Day School Settlement Agreement

• In August 2019, the Federal Court approved a nation-wide class settlement to compensate Survivors of day schools.

• As of January 2020, 699 federally operated Indian Day Schools have been identified as eligible under this settlement.

• In 2009, Garry McLean a Member of the Lake Manitoba First Nation started legal action seeking justice for day school Survivors.

Truths Discovered

• On May 28 2021, the remains of 215 Children where found at the Kamloops Residential School

• Since this time 1800 + bodies have been discovered

• Brandon, Manitoba

• Marieval, Saskatchewan

• Cranbrook, British Columbia

• Kuper Island British Columbia


Truth and Reconciliation

• It had a 6 year mandate to listen to and record the stories of Indian Residential School survivors, they heard 6,740 statements and inducted almost 100 Honourary Witnesses to work on Reconciliation.

• The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was a requirement of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement reached in 2007, the largest class action settlement in Canadian history.

• Seven national events across Canada were hosted to engage the Canadian public to educate people about the history and legacy

Residential school locations in Canada

Justice Murray Sinclair Chair, Truth and Reconciliation

Commission of Canada

Chief Wilton

Littlechild Commissioner

Dr. Marie Wilson Commissioner

“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.

They worked for decades to place the issue of the abusive treatment that students were subjected to at residential schools on the national agenda. Their perseverance led to the reaching of the historic Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.

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”.


In preparation for the release of its final report, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada has developed a definition of reconciliation and a guiding set of principles for truth

and reconciliation. “This definition has informed the Commission’s work and the principles have shaped the calls to action we will issue in the final report.”

Reconciliation --“establishing and maintaining a mutually respectful relationship between Aboriginal and non Aboriginal peoples in this country

Principles of Reconciliation

• The United Nations' "Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples" provides the framework for reconciliation at all levels and across all sectors of Canadian society.

• First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples, as the original peoples of this country and as self determining peoples, have Treaty, constitutional, and human rights that must be recognized and respected.

• Reconciliation is a process of healing of relationships that requires public truth sharing, apology, and commemoration that acknowledge and redress past harms.

• Reconciliation requires constructive action on addressing the ongoing legacies of colonialism that have had destructive impacts on Indigenous peoples’ education, cultures and languages,

health, child welfare, the administration of justice, and economic opportunities and prosperity.

• Reconciliation must create a more equitable and inclusive society by closing the gaps in social, health, and economic outcomes that exist between Indigenous and non Indigenous Canadians.

• All Canadians, as Treaty peoples, share responsibility for establishing and maintaining mutually respectful relationships.

• The perspectives and understandings of Indigenous Elders and Traditional Knowledge Keepers about the ethics, concepts, and practices of reconciliation are vital to long term reconciliation.

• Supporting Indigenous peoples’ cultural revitalization and integrating Indigenous knowledge systems, oral histories, laws, protocols, and connections to the land into the reconciliation process are essential.

• Reconciliation requires political will, joint leadership, trust building, accountability, and transparency, as well as a substantial investment of resources.

• Reconciliation requires sustained public education and dialogue, including youth engagement, about the history and legacy of residential schools, Treaties, and Indigenous rights, as well as the historical and contemporary contributions of Indigenous peoples to Canadian society.

94 Calls to Action

“In order to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission makes the following calls to action”.

Reconciliation - Broadly

• 23 Calls to Action

Including UNDRIP, Royal Proclamation and Covenant of Reconciliation, Settlement Agreements, Equity in the Legal System, National Council for Reconciliation, Professional Development & Training, Churches, Education


• 7 Calls to Action Including closing health gaps, recognizing the value of Aboriginal healing practices, solve jurisdictional disputes and educate and train all health care professionals


• 18 Calls to Action

Including ensuring competency training for all lawyers, police, judges, and law students, work collaboratively, and eliminate over representation of Aboriginal peoples in custody

Language and Culture

• 5 Calls to Action

Including a call upon the federal government to acknowledge that Aboriginal rights include Aboriginal language rights. “Aboriginal languages are a fundamental and valued element of Canadian culture and society, and there is an urgency to preserve them”.


• 7 Calls to Action

Including a call upon the federal government to eliminate the discrepancy in federal education funding for First Nations children being educated on reserves and those First Nations children being educated off reserves.


• One Call to Action

#66 the only one call to action that deals directly with youth the establishment of multi year funding for community based youth organizations

Museums and Archives

• 4 Calls to Action

Including, accessible records, a national review of archival policies and practices, and ensure compliance w/framework

Media and Reconciliation

• 3 Calls to Action Including a refunding of CBC/Radio Canada, Increasing Aboriginal Programming, and educating Canadian Journalism Programs

Sports and Reconciliation

• 5 Calls to Action

Including telling the story of Aboriginal Athletes in history, amending acts and policies, and providing stable funding and training for community members and family

National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation

• 2 Calls to Action

Including working collaboratively with the NCTR, to identify and collect all records, and make a funding contribution of 10 million over 7 years, plus funds to assist communities

to produce their own stories towards healing

Newcomers to Canada

• 2 Calls to Action

• We call upon the Government of Canada to replace the Oath of Citizenship with the following:

• I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully

observe the laws of Canada including Treaties with Indigenous Peoples, and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.

Child Welfare

• 5 Calls to Action

Including calling upon all levels of government to fully implement Jordan's Principle.


• 5 Calls to Action

Including the development of a reconciliation framework for Canadian Heritage, Historic Sites, and Commemorative Monuments The new National Holiday speaks to Call #80

“We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, to establish, as a statutory holiday, a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to honour Survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process”.

Missing Children and Burial Information

• 6 Calls to Action

Including provision of records and documents, sufficient resources to National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation for a student death register, and appropriate commemoration of

Aboriginal children who died at Residential Schools

Business and Reconciliation

• 1 Call to Action

“Calling upon the Corporate Sector to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and apply its principles and commit to meaningful consultation, building respectful relationships, and obtaining the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous Peoples before proceeding with economic development projects”.

Principles of Reconciliation

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada believes that in order for Canada to flourish in the twenty first century, reconciliation between Aboriginal and non Aboriginal

Canada must be based on ten principles.

“The first and foremost being the full and effective implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”


The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) is an international human rights instrument that affirms the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well being of Indigenous peoples throughout the world.

• UNDRIP was adopted by the General Assembly on Thursday, 13 September 2007, by a majority of 144 states in favour, 4 votes against (Canada being one)and 11 abstentions.

• Canada shifted its position in 2010 to support the declaration, but noted it was an ‘aspirational’ document that was not legally binding.

• In 2016, Canada fully endorsed UNDRIP and pledged to fully adopt and implement it.

The Action Plan

• Must be developed in collaboration with Indigenous Peoples in two years, will include measures to:

• address injustices, combat prejudice and eliminate all forms of violence, racism and discrimination against Indigenous Peoples

• promote mutual respect and understanding, as well as good relations, including through human rights education

• ensure Canada is held accountable on progress through regular reporting and oversight

46 Articles

- Self determination and Self government

- Equality and Non discrimination

- Culture, Language and Identity

- Lands, Territories and Resources

- Indigenous institutions and legal systems, among other rights.

Article 10

• Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories. No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the Indigenous peoples concerned and after agreement on just and fair compensation and, where possible, with the option of returning.

Article 25 & 26.1-3

• 25. Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinctive spiritual relationship with their traditionally owned or otherwise occupied and used lands, territories,

waters and coastal seas and other resources and to uphold their responsibilities to future generations in this regard.

• 26.1 Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.

Article 26.2-3

• 2. Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise acquired.

• 3. States shall give legal recognition and protection to these lands, territories and resources. Such recognition shall be conducted with due respect to the customs, traditions and land tenure systems of the indigenous peoples concerned.

Article 27

• States shall establish and implement, in conjunction with indigenous peoples concerned, a fair, independent, impartial, open and transparent process, giving due recognition to indigenous peoples’ laws, traditions, customs and land tenure systems, to recognize and adjudicate the rights of indigenous peoples pertaining to their lands, territories and resources, including those which were traditionally owned or otherwise occupied or used. Indigenous peoples shall have the right to participate in this process.

Article 28

• 1. Indigenous peoples have the right to redress, by means that can include restitution or, when this is not possible, just, fair and equitable compensation, for the lands, territories

and resources which they have traditionally owned or otherwise occupied or used, and which have been confiscated, taken, occupied, used or damaged without their free, prior and informed consent.

• 2. Unless otherwise freely agreed upon by the peoples concerned, compensation shall take the form of lands, territories and resources equal in quality, size and legal

status or of monetary compensation or other appropriate redress.

Article 29

• 1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the conservation and protection of the environment and the productive capacity of their lands or territories and resources. States shall establish

and implement assistance programs for indigenous peoples for such conservation and protection, without discrimination.

• 2. States shall take effective measures to ensure that no storage or disposal of hazardous materials shall take place in the lands or territories of indigenous peoples without their

free, prior and informed consent.

• 3. States shall also take effective measures to ensure, as needed, that programs for monitoring, maintaining and restoring the health of indigenous peoples, as developed and implemented by the peoples affected by such materials, are duly implemented.

Article 32

• 1. Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for the development or use of their lands or territories and other resources.

• 2. States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of

mineral, water or other resources.

• 3. States shall provide effective mechanisms for just and fair redress for any such activities, and appropriate measures shall be taken to mitigate adverse environmental, economic, social, cultural or spiritual impact.

60’s Scoop

• The Sixties Scoop was a period in which a series of policies were enacted in Canada that enabled child welfare authorities to take, or "scoop up," thousands of Indigenous children from their families and Communities for placement in foster homes, from which they would be adopted by white families from across Canada and the United States.

• These children lost their names, their languages, and a connection to their heritage. Sadly, many were also abused and made to feel ashamed of who they were.

Time Period

• Despite its name referencing the 1960s, the Sixties Scoop began in the mid to late 1950s when non Indigenous child welfare authorities began apprehending Indigenous children

but this organized, concerted effort to remove Indigenous kids from their homes kicked off in 1965. The practice continued throughout the 1970s and into the early 90’s

• It is estimated that more than 20,000 Indigenous children were taken from their families and fostered or adopted out primarily to white middle class families during this time

• Intact, loving families that were deemed to be in some way “insufficient” by white middle class social workers had their children taken away, rather than getting support.


• In the early 1980’s the Manitoba government established a Review Committee on Indian and Métis Adoptions and Placements in the wake of allegations from First Nations and

Métis communities that their children were being fostered and placed in out of province homes for the purposes of adoption in large numbers.

• In 1984, Justice Edwin Kimelman would release a review of Indigenous child apprehension called No Quiet Place: Review Committee on Indian and Métis Adoptions and


• After reviewing the file of every Native child who had been adopted by an out of province family, Judge Kimelman stated: ‘that cultural genocide has been taking place in a

systematic, routine manner’.

• The Kimelman Report would mark the start to the end of the Sixties Scoop era.

Settlement Agreement

• On February 14 2017, after an 8 year court battle, Ontario Superior Court judge Edward Belobaba ruled in favour of Sixties Scoop victims stating that the

federal government failed to prevent on reserve children from losing their Indigenous identity after they were forcibly taken from their homes

• In August 2017, the Government of Canada and representatives of the plaintiffs signed an Agreement in Principle aimed at resolving Sixties Scoop litigation. Agreement in principle

includes Status Indians and Inuit.

• In August 2018, the federal court and the Ontario Superior Court approved the terms of the settlement agreement.

• A final agreement was signed on November 30, 2017

Related articles and resources:

Indigenous awareness training: A foundation for success

Developing relationships with Indigenous Communities

Understanding Indigenous Treaties in Ontario

To find out how we can help you with your Indigenous Awareness and Engagement activities, please see our web page Indigenous Engagement Training or contact us at: (705) 657-1126


To set up a short 15 minute consultation with our CEO, Mike Jacobs, please see this page here.

Chi Miigwetch (thank you) and good luck!

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