September 30 is the 3rd annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and the 10th year of Orange Shirt Day, providing an important opportunity to honour residential school survivors, the children who never returned home, as well as their families and communities harmed by the legacy and ongoing impact of colonialism in this country. At a time of increasing denialism surrounding residential schools, and of the central role that church and state played in their operation, it’s especially important for non-Indigenous people to do the work to understand this horrifying history in order to create supportive spaces for survivors, their families, and Indigenous communities to tell their truth.
As a non-Indigenous, settler-led organization that has the privilege of working with and for Two-Spirit and LGBTQIA+ Indigenous communities across Turtle Island, this day also carries particular importance for CBRC. It’s a day to not only reaffirm our commitments to decolonization and reconciliation as a whole, but to also consider our unique responsibilities to Two-Spirit and LGBTQIA+ Indigenous peoples, and to Two-Spirit resurgence as part of our mandate to strengthen the health and wellbeing of queer and trans people in Canada.
It bears mentioning that our work on reconciliation and with Two-Spirit and LGBTQIA+ Indigenous peoples would not be possible without the knowledge, expertise, and support from the Indigenous Elders, knowledge keepers, and leaders that CBRC has been blessed to be in partnership with. From the beginning of our reconciliation journey in 2016 when our board endorsed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to the establishment and growth of our Two-Spirit Program, Indigenous people working at and with CBRC have and continue to be at the centre of this change.
Thanks to the leadership, hard work, and dedication from the Two-Spirit Program Team, and the collaboration and support from our staff, I’m proud that CBRC is making meaningful steps towards reconciliation. Over the last year alone, the Two-Spirit Program has racked up several significant achievements, including the March 20 proclamation as Two-Spirit and Indigenous LGBTQIA+ Celebration and Awareness Day in British Columbia, and program successes like the Medicine Bundle sexual health initiative and the now-annual Two-Spirit Symposium gathering (stay tuned for the 2023 program!). These are just a few examples of the ways in which the Two-Spirit Program, and the growing network of Two-Spirit and LGBTQIA+ Indigenous Elders and leaders that we are honoured to work with, are reclaiming space and creating meaningful opportunities for reconciliation in our communities.
Although there is so much more still that needs to be done to address our responsibilities to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in Canada – at CBRC and beyond – as a settler who plays a leadership role in advancing 2SLGBTQIA+ health, I am humbled to be guided by the Two-Spirit and queer and trans Indigenous people who make this work possible. While National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is first and foremost about reflecting on the historical and ongoing harms from Canada’s residential school system, it is also a time to recognize the Two-Spirit and LGBTQIA+ Indigenous people who are showing us the power and impact of reconciliation on health promotion and community building.
By Michael Kwag, Executive Director