Including Indigenous peoples in Canadian citizenship oath is overdue

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While including Indigenous peoples in the text of the Canadian citizenship oath is a positive step towards cultural acknowledgement, it’s not the most important one for Indigenous communities.
 
According to an editorial in the Toronto Star, the new edition of the oath will include “treaties with Indigenous Peoples,” as something to be faithfully observed as a Canadian citizen.
While altering the citizenship oath is a good thing, it’s only one of the 94 recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
 
Canada has an ethical responsibility to make concrete changes to help First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities that have been wronged by the Canadian government for centuries.
 
Water, something known internationally as being an abundant resource in Canada, is unavailable to Indigenous communities across the country. The rates of missing and murdered Indigenous women, as well as the rate of suicide, is disproportionately higher than those of non-Indigenous populations. 
 
Regardless of whether or not Indigenous peoples are acknowledged in the citizenship oath, these problems will continue to exist. Acknowledgement is important, but it can’t be the only step we take in the enormous responsibility of reconciliation efforts. 
 
The oath-change calls attention to Indigenous peoples without mentioning the enormous adversity they face in Canada’s current cultural context. It would be easy for this to become more about the alleviation of settler’s guilt than the welfare of Indigenous populations. It needs to be followed up with explanation and context for all Canadians. 
 
According to an article in Maclean’s, those taking the citizenship oath will also hear about the history of Indigenous peoples during the citizenship ceremony. 
 
Teaching new Canadians about Indigenous histories is important, but current Canadians also need an education on Indigenous histories and contemporary issues. 
 
The addition to the citizenship oath is a positive symbolic gesture, but it’s important to remember that it’s only just that. Praise for it must be taken with the knowledge that this change is something long overdue. 
 
Change for Indigenous peoples in Canada may start with words, but it needs to be followed up with actions. Albeit important, it’s only one piece of the puzzle. 
 
— Journal Editorial Board

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