Honouring National Indigenous Peoples Day at CHV

June 21 marks National Indigenous Peoples Day — a day dedicated to honouring the many unique cultures, traditions, and histories of Indigenous Peoples across Canada. At Covenant House Vancouver (CHV), we acknowledge with respect and gratitude that our work takes place on the traditional lands of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.

The Significance of National Indigenous Peoples Day

Approximately 1.8 million Canadians, roughly 5% of the country’s population, identify as Indigenous, according to the 2021 Census. Indigenous Peoples are also Canada’s fastest growing population and youngest population with 28% of individuals under the age of 25, as reflected in the Census.

Over 70 Indigenous languages are spoken in Canada and even though the number of Indigenous Peoples reporting that they can speak an Indigenous language is declining, the number of Indigenous language speakers learning this as a second language continues to rise.

While National Indigenous Peoples Day (formerly National Aboriginal Day) is an opportunity to celebrate, it is also a day to reflect on the contributions of Indigenous communities, and to remind us of their resilience and strength, and to reaffirm our support for ongoing reconciliation efforts across the country.

Our Commitment to Indigenous Youth

Many of the youth at CHV self-identify as Indigenous. We continue to take a proactive approach to educate ourselves, connect with partner organizations, and provide a variety of resources and supports for the Indigenous youth we serve.

Indigenous Peoples experience homelessness at a disproportionate rate when compared to other demographics. Some research suggests Indigenous Peoples are up to eight times more likely to experience homelessness, and this can be traced back to systemic barriers, discrimination, and historical injustices and inequalities.

Our programs are designed to create a safe and inclusive environment where Indigenous youth feel valued, heard, and respected. To foster this, along with a sense of belonging and cultural safety, we continue to develop supports and culturally appropriate services that encourage open discussions, dialogues, sharing, and storytelling.

Indigenous youth at CHV have access to several Indigenous medicine cabinets that are stocked with items such as sage, sweetgrass, cedar, and tobacco. These cabinets empower youth to access these items as needed, with no need to ask staff, which allows them to develop and maintain connections to their culture, heritage, and ancestral traditions.

Our Food Services team also plays an active role in our celebrations, by creating a robust and thoughtfully curated menu to acknowledge National Indigenous Peoples Day. Bannock, a traditional frybread and staple in many Indigenous communities, will also be available. Beyond being a delicious opportunity to showcase these culinary traditions, these meals provide an opportunity for all the youth at CHV to experience and enjoy Indigenous cuisine.

We have been working with the Aboriginal Housing Management Association to develop additional workshops, training, and engagement, rooted in the four pillars of cultural safety: self-agency, relationship, trauma-informed care, and reciprocity. Going beyond understanding, we are committed to embodying Indigenous worldviews and practices in our procedures and policies, to lay the groundwork and create space for a more inclusive and compassionate future.

As we celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day, we continue our efforts to understand and respect Indigenous culture, amplify Indigenous voices, and embark on a journey that leads to a more just and equitable society.

On this day, and every day, we recognize the important role Indigenous Peoples play in our past, present, and future. We invite everyone to join us in celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day. Together we can build a more inclusive and respectful community for all.