Reconciliation in Action: Guidance for Ontario’s HIV Sector

The 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action were a challenge to non-Indigenous Canadians to do better. It has led to a conversation that has filtered down to the Ontario HIV sector. The question facing our sector is: What should be the work of Reconciliation in our sector, and, more specifically, in our organizations?

Dreamcatcher on wall over bed, decorated bed room with Native American decoration
Dreamcatcher on wall over bed, decorated bed room with Native American decoration

The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls has further challenged would-be allies to move from intentions to action.

In October 2018, at the Ontario AIDS Network’s HIV Sector Leadership Symposium, a Reconciliation in Action Working Group was formed. It was recognized that for most of the sector’s organizations, there is much work to be done, but that guidance is needed to support that work.

Following creation of the Reconciliation in Action Working Group during the Ontario AIDS Network’s 2018 Leadership Symposium, organizations within our sector agreed that we must begin and/or renew our efforts toward Reconciliation.

This reinvigorated process must:

  • Draw from a renewed commitment to self-education
  • Focus on transferring of power and decision-making
  • Transfer funding to Indigenous-led organizations and projects.

Through their work and collaboration, the Reconciliation Working Group created a guidance document to support organization in the HIV sector to decolonize their work and begin or continue along the path toward Reconciliation.

Embedding Reconciliation Work in Your Organization

As a sector, our journey along the path toward Truth and Reconciliation must be grounded in self-reflection and self-sufficiency. Also required is an acknowledgment of our privilege as settler organizations, of the inequitable distribution of resources, and contrition for our sector’s historical perpetuation of a colonialist system.

As settler organizations, we have a duty to name and acknowledge our role in the traumatic life circumstances faced by many Indigenous Peoples related to the ongoing and undue burden of colonialism and racism and discrimination. We also recognize the intergenerational traumas caused by the residential school and child welfare systems. Too often we have allowed systemic racism and anti-Indigenous discrimination and a failure to consistently offer culturally relevant services exist as barriers to Indigenous Peoples seeking support and services. 

Incumbent on us, not Indigenous Peoples, is the work of identifying gaps, missteps, and setting clear goals along the path toward Reconciliation. It is time to move away from and beyond the historically ineffective and tiresome frameworks and prescriptive efforts to improve services and access for Indigenous people living with HIV.

The HIV sector’s Reconciliation in Action Guidance document supports service providers to undergo the critical steps of self-reflection, self-education, and self-assessment at all levels of their organizations, and to build trust and develop relationships with partners, Elders/Knowledge Keepers and Indigenous people living with HIV/AIDS. The guidance supports a commitment to listening deeply and heeding partner advice and input, particularly concerning the lack meaningful engagement and inclusion of Indigenous people living with HIV/AIDS within our organizations and the broader sector.


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