National Indigenous Peoples Day is a celebration of resilience: Mushkegowuk Grand Chief
TIMMINS -- Heartbreaking discoveries of unmarked burials around the country and a health crisis in Ontario's far north have feelings of sorrow running high for the Grand Chief of the Mushkegowuk Council.
But Jonathan Solomon said those challenges make National Indigenous Peoples Day all the more important as a time to reflect, educate and celebrate.
"We still have our language, we still have our culture, we still have our identity," Solomon told CTV. "We have to celebrate our resilience, we have to celebrate our existence as Mushkegowuk and Inuk (people)."
People in Timmins wanted to acknowledge the occasion, including the son of a local police chief.
Northern College student Brent Gauthier made wood artwork containing symbols of Indigenous culture and geography as part of a school project, and decided to donate it to the Timmins Police Service.
He said his artwork signifies the collaboration between police and Indigenous organizations to support the community.
"(Nishnawbe Aski Nation), the police service, Mushkegowuk Council, all of these resources are coming together and trying to produce better relations between Indigenous people and police," Gauthier said, adding that the goal should be to come together.
"We should work on remembering the past and trying to create a better future."
That's a notion deputy police chief Henry Dacosta agrees with, saying the police service's Indigenous liaison has been a key part of gaining the trust of the Indigenous community.
"To build those relationships, build those partnerships, understand things and share that information with our membership," Dacosta said.
He said the police service also welcomes diversity in its workforce and is always looking for people that can add unique perspectives to its law enforcement strategy.
Elsewhere in the city, Newmont Porcupine showed its support for the Indigenous community -- particularly those impacted by the residential school system -- by unveiling a specially painted orange truck with 'Every Child Matters' written on its side.
Bryan Neeley, the company's sustainability and external relations manager, said it's important to stand resolute with its First Nations mining partners.
"We've got agreements with eight different First Nations ... we do have mutual interests on the land, so this is another way we can show support for Indigenous people," said Neeley.
Solomon said it's encouraging to see non-Indigenous people and organizations making efforts to acknowledge, support and learn about Indigenous people — and he said that needs to spiral into a nation-wide education on the history of this country's first settlers.
"What's our history between them and us?" is a question Solomon said all families should discuss.
The ultimate goal, he said is for Indigenous people to be able to live peacefully and autonomously.
"Let's all get along and we'll be much further ahead of we do."