“What is Ontario Parks doing to support reconciliation?”
We’ve heard that question more and more often, whether it’s asked in a park or through a message on social media, whether it’s asked by an Indigenous person or a non-Indigenous person, we really appreciate the question.
Ontario Parks is committed to a journey of meaningful reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. We would like to share some of the concrete steps we are taking on that journey and hope this post invites our readers to join us on this day of respect and reflection.
First, it is important to recognize the truth.
Although many provincial parks and conservation reserves in Ontario are culturally important places for Indigenous peoples, understanding and recognizing that connection in the past was not something that was always reflected or considered in the process of establishing provincial parks or conservation reserves. conservation.
Ontario Parks also recognizes that it has not always been successful in establishing and maintaining positive relationships with Indigenous peoples.
In some cases, the contributions of Indigenous peoples, the recognition of their history and culture, as well as the special connections and relationships with these places that are provincial parks and conservation reserves, may be completely absent or not fully shared.
Ontario Parks recognizes that these past practices were wrong and, over the past decade and into the future, we are working to better recognize the important relationship Indigenous peoples have with the natural environment while honoring Indigenous rights and traditions.
By recognizing this truth, we can learn from the past and focus on building more balanced relationships with Indigenous peoples.
A journey towards reconciliation
We want to learn from our history.
While we recognize that we are still one step along our path toward reconciliation, we want to share some of the concrete ways we are working to improve.
Supporting indigenous culture
We want to help celebrate and promote indigenous languages and cultures that were almost lost after generations of indigenous children were sent to Indian residential schools.
Much of that effort to help is done through our educational leaders in the Discovery Program. Our Discovery leaders seek to include and amplify Indigenous voices and perspectives in their educational programs and exhibits.
An example can be found in Rondeau Provincial Park, where three local Indigenous communities are working with park staff to incorporate Indigenous voices into the Visitor Centre, trails and park programs:
Many Indigenous community events are held in provincial parks, such as the annual French River Pow Wow earlier this month.
We are also working to include more indigenous representation in our digital education channels, such as our blog and social media.
Close gaps and eliminate barriers
An important part of reconciliation includes addressing the social and economic challenges that indigenous communities now face after centuries of colonization and discrimination.
Ontario Parks is committed to an inclusive workforce and participates in several initiatives, such as the Indigenous Internship Program, which aims to offer Indigenous graduates equal access and employment opportunities.
Ontario Parks is also committed to respecting access for the exercise of Aboriginal and treaty rights, as recognized and affirmed in the Constitution Act 1982. Constitutional rights to harvest for food, ceremonial or social purposes may be exercise within a provincial park or conservation reserve at any time, provided that safety and conservation considerations are met.
For Indigenous peoples who wish to enter a provincial park within their traditional territory to exercise their Aboriginal and treaty rights, daytime access is free.
Reconcile relations with indigenous peoples
Working together on park management planning is an important way to work together to integrate Indigenous knowledge, values and interests into parks. Ontario Parks recognizes the importance of Indigenous inclusion and consultation for all provincial parks and conservation reserves.
Ontario Parks is proud of the collaborative work being done with Indigenous communities in our shared efforts toward stewardship of provincial parks and conservation reserves. We look forward to continuing to build on our shared relationships while ensuring the lands are protected for future generations.
Listen and understand that this is a journey.
Lasting and meaningful reconciliation is an ongoing process and a shared responsibility for all of us.
While we are proud of the steps that have already been taken, we recognize that we are in the early stages of our journey and that we still have much work to do in the service and spirit of truth and reconciliation.
We encourage everyone to take time to learn and reflect.
On National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, there are many ways people can learn and get the information they need to foster greater understanding, both online and by participating in events and learning opportunities throughout the year.
Our staff will take the time to listen, learn, and reflect today (and beyond), and we invite all park lovers to join us.
If you want some suggestions on where to start, try:
Once you’ve taken some time to learn and reflect, consider how you can share with other people in your life. You could share this blog or one of these resources on social media, or you could sit down with a friend or family member to talk together about truth and reconciliation.