Indigenous Advocacy and Speech Therapist Allyship (Part 3 of 3)

Updated: Jul 15, 2021

This post was written with contributions from SLPs Michelle Dolmaya, Mikyla Grau, and Janessa Tam.

Today, June 21st, is National Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada. Taking place on the summer solstice which many Indigenous communities have celebrated for hundreds of years, this is a day for all Canadians to celebrate the contributions, achievements and diverse cultures of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.

As a team of Speech Language Pathologists, we are inspired by the resilience of Indigenous communities in their efforts to preserve traditional languages and will continue to do our part to help maintain their presence. While it's great to admire the beauty of Indigenous cultures and traditions, it's important that we also acknowledge the struggles that these communities have faced throughout history and continue to face today.

We want to highlight some of the movements that Indigenous peoples in Canada have fought for and provide ways for non-Indigenous Canadians to be allies, not just on June 21st, but every day moving forward.

Photo from Canadian Museum of History

Establishing a Voice

In 1969, the Statement of the Government of Canada on Indian Policy was published – it would eventually become known as the White Paper. Under then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's "Just Society" initiative, the White Paper called for all Indigenous people to have access to "full and equal participation in the cultural, social, economic and political life of Canada” claiming to be working against discrimination and toward equity with other Canadians.

Indigenous communities looked beyond the surface of this message and highlighted how the White Paper was just another way for the Canadian government to try to assimilate its First Nations, Métis and Inuit populations to the white majority. Instead of acknowledging their unique identity and independence, the White Paper could eventually lead to the loss of treaties, land and status.