As Canadians recognize the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, also known as Orange Shirt Day, Child Care Now is reflecting on what we have done and must do as an organization to advocate for and advance true reconciliation.

In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission reported the stories of mass burials and unmarked graves at Residential Schools  This past summer, the remains of 215 innocent children were uncovered at the former site of Kamloops Residential School—since then, thousands more have been found at former residential school sites across Canada. 

Across Canada and around the world, people expressed grief and sorrow. Many committed or recommitted to achieving truth and reconciliation. Child Care Now reaffirmed active support for the Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care Framework Agreement. We said we would continue to work with others in answering the Calls for Justice, issued by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action, including the call on governments to develop culturally appropriate early childhood education programs for Indigenous families. 

Since then, Child Care Now has advocated for provinces and territories to sign agreements with the Government of Canada to build a Canada-wide system of high quality, inclusive, accessible, affordable early learning and child care. Also, we have been pressing for the renewal of the bilateral child care agreements funded through allocations made in the 2017 federal budget. We have called for all of these child care agreements to respect and advance the Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care Framework which sets out the policy conditions necessary to give all First Nations, Métis and Inuit children the right “to experience high-quality cultural rooted early learning and child care programming.” For far too long, Indigenous peoples have been subjected to horrific violence at the hands of settlers. Truth and reconciliation must include funding and support for Indigenous-led and culturally-safe early learning and child care developed and governed by Indigenous communities and governments.

We are still a long way from truth and from reconciliation. First Nations, Métis and Inuit children are overrepresented in Canada’s foster care system; they experience higher rates of poverty, food insecurity, and inadequate housing. Access to quality, affordable, and culturally appropriate child care can help address these inequities. In partnership with Indigenous peoples, communities and their organizations, we will continue to advocate for distinctions-based Indigenous-led early childhood education programs, and we will work to transform the entire early learning and child care sector to ensure that all programs everywhere are welcoming, inclusive and culturally-safe for Indigenous children, their families and communities. Child Care Now will make sure that our commitment to Indigenous peoples and their communities is central in all of our work.

We ask that all of our members and supporters consider their part in advancing truth and reconciliation, today and each day thereafter. If you are able, please consider donating to the Legacy of Hope Foundation, an Indigenous-led organization that aims to educate and raise awareness about the history of and long-lasting generational impacts of the residential school system and other forms of cultural oppression against Indigenous peoples.