Over the past few years there have been many difficult conversations about the effects of systemic racism and what we can do both as individuals and as a community to build a culture of inclusion so that everyone can reach their full potential.
While I believe we are heading in the right direction, progress takes time and it takes understanding – it’s not always a straight line.
Earlier this year in Canada, the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves on the grounds of former residential schools drove home the legacy of systemic racism faced by Indigenous peoples. It reminded us all of the deliberate efforts to institutionalize racism through the residential school system, the ‘60s scoop and the forced relocations of Indigenous peoples away from their families and communities.
And, for many First Nations, Métis and Inuit people, it formed part of their experience of intergenerational trauma that continues to impact Survivors and their families.
While we can’t re-write history, it’s our responsibility to create a more inclusive future.
We’ve been given an opportunity to do this on September 30th, a day established as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. This national holiday is dedicated to acknowledging the ongoing legacy of residential schools in Canada and is one of the 94 Calls to Action released by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015.
The Commission calls on all people in Canada to learn about our past, so that we can shape a better future. And this includes CIBC.
While our bank has a long and rich history of supporting Indigenous communities, we also must acknowledge our own past. We had a presence in many of the communities where residential schools were located – sometimes as the only bank in town. It also means that we would have had client relationships with the schools and leaders involved in running them.
This isn’t who we are today, but it shows the prevalence of racism in our societies and in businesses across the country. And it highlights how each of us have a role to play in truth and reconciliation.
As we look to the future, I encourage everyone to continue this conversation year-round and dedicate some time to learning about the truth and our journey towards reconciliation on September 30.