June 21, 2020
By Jose Zarate
Society as a whole may be entering a moment of transformative change on many levels, addressing systemic discrimination against Indigenous and racialized people and other victimized or marginalized demographics. In Canada, Indigenous Peoples continue to suffer discrimination, marginalization, extreme poverty, lower education levels, poor health and conflict. Some are being dispossessed of their traditional lands, as their livelihoods are being jeopardized. Meanwhile, their belief systems, cultures, languages and ways of life continue to be threatened, sometimes even by extinction.
Since its inception in 1996, the PWRDF Indigenous Development Program has had the opportunity to work closely with more than 22 Indigenous communities and know them better through consultations, visits and exchange of knowledge gatherings. Most importantly, Indigenous partners have shared with PWRDF their challenges, opportunities for transformative change and successful community development experiences. PWRDF must work closely and collaboratively with Indigenous Peoples to right the injustices that exist. This involves acknowledging that Canada’s wealth and standard of living is built on lands that were first occupied by Indigenous Peoples, and that non-Indigenous society continues to benefit from these stolen lands and resources, while Indigenous Peoples suffer.
PWRDF Indigenous work responds to the needs and priorities identified by Indigenous partners, the 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) report, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the recommendations of the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC): Calls to Action.
A few of the findings from consultations, visits and gatherings between Indigenous partners and PWRDF are the following:
- Increasing loss of cultural values and language
- Indigenous communities face high unemployment, poverty, dependency, low educational attainment, poor health, family violence, drug and alcohol abuse, etc.
- Indigenous women and youth need the most support
- Indigenous community-based groups lack access to alternative funding from non-governmental organizations, such as PWRDF, for projects that respond to identified needs.
- Interest to explore inter-Indigenous partnerships within Canada and abroad
For PWRDF, National Indigenous Peoples Day means partnership based on equality, recognition, respect and support for their rights, protection and conservation of their natural and cultural resources and to the enjoyment of fundamental dignity and wellbeing.
For more than 20 years, PWRDF has worked with Indigenous partners to implement programs designed to address their challenges. These include language recovery programs, skills training leading to income opportunities, maternal and newborn health, youth and leadership training and more. It also includes support of a remarkable collaboration of Indigenous midwives from Mexico, Peru and Canada.
PWRDF was instrumental in building partnerships with Indigenous peoples, enabling them to design and implement programs respond to their communities’ critical needs. PWRDF invites the Canadian Anglican constituency and the wider audience to join us to work collaboratively and strategically with Indigenous communities and organizations towards their goals of self-sufficiency and self-determination.
José Zaraté is the Canadian Indigenous Communities & Latin America-Caribbean Development Program Coordinator for PWRDF.