High rates of food insecurity, difficulties accessing traditional foods and water contaminated with trace metals and pharmaceuticals are prevalent among Atlantic Canada’s Indigenous communities, according to a new study.

“We should stress more the rights to food and that being a human right. We’re sad that Canada, a rich country, still allows these high rates of food insecurity to be occurring in particular communities,” said Dr. Malek Batal, one of the principal investigators in the First Nations Food, Nutrition and Environment Study.

Dear Prime Minister,

We write as a group of concerned citizens to urge you and the Canadian government to support culturally based equity for First Nations children. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission concluded that Canada fundamentally must acknowledge and remedy its unjust treatment of Indigenous peoples. While we are concerned for and committed to the well-being of all Indigenous children, First Nations children are uniquely affected by federal underfunding of services on-reserve. It is unacceptable that the federal government does not provide First Nations children, youth and families with equitable education, health care, child welfare and basics such as clean drinking water.

You can’t access a home without identification and you can’t get identification without a home address. This is just one of the many barriers to having a home for people who are clients of Lois Demers.

She is a Drug and Alcohol Counsellor with the North Bay Indigenous Friendship Centre with Algonquin and Potawatomi roots. And she has been overwhelmed with the number of people coming forward with requests for support.

“I can only go so far with my resources, my knowledge and my connections. Then we are stopped from moving forward.”

What’s needed immediately is a place to go says Demers. “People need housing – an interim shelter with safety, stability and structure until they can go into treatment.”

Six young families in Munsee-Delaware Nation are enjoying new homes thanks to the construction of a six-unit housing complex in the Southwest Region community.

“They all love it,” says Michele Snake, housing coordinator for Munsee-Delaware Nation. “They are all very happy — they couldn’t wait to get in.”

Munsee-Delaware Nation celebrated the completion of the six-unit housing complex with a grand opening on June 2. The community of about 155 on-reserve citizens was one of 55 First Nation communities across Ontario that received new housing investments through the federal government’s Budget 2016.

The federal government invested $800,000 into the project, which was part of about $62 million in Budget 2016 investments to improve on-reserve housing conditions in Ontario and about $554.3 million in Budget 2016 investments over two years across Canada. The band also invested about $175,000 into the project.

The uncomfortable disparity between the idyllic vision of Canada celebrated Saturday and the lived realities of many in Indigenous communities was on sharp display in Toronto this afternoon.

A contingent of activists, as well as many Indigenous people who are simply angry at the state of the country, showed up to a Canada Day picnic hosted by Carolyn Bennett, federal minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, at the Spadina Museum.

They came from all over Canada to confront the minister about what they say is a government long on public relations and lofty promises, but short on anything resembling progressive policy change.

We all want to feel good about what Canada stands for. From progress on LGBTQ rights, to communities coming together to support new immigrants, to modest steps toward reconciliation, there are reasons to be proud of how far we’ve come in 2017.

But are we prepared to move beyond pride—to acknowledge just how much more work needs to be done?

Canada was founded on stolen Indigenous land. For at least 150 years, public policy—including the residential schools program—has attempted to make Canada’s first inhabitants disappear, physically and legally, as distinct peoples. This much was, once again, made crystal clear in the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015.

Today, Indigenous people in this country experience shocking levels of poverty, inadequate access to clean water and housing, disproportionate levels of arrest and incarceration, unequal levels of health care and education, the exploitation of their resources, and the regular abuse of treaty and land rights. Aboriginal women are murdered or go missing at rates far above any other part of the population.

It’s 2017 and Canadians are celebrating the 150th anniversary of the British North America Act. The official government of Canada website encourages Canadians to “celebrate all that makes us who we are as a country.” As a white settler enjoying life on stolen lands and broken promises, I am unable to join in this celebration.

I don’t remember learning much about First Nations, Inuit or Metis peoples at school. I know for a fact that I learned absolutely nothing about treaties, the Indian Act or residential schools. In fact, it was as an adult that I realized at least four children I went to school with and called friends were First Nations children who had been taken from their families of origin as part of the Sixties Scoop.

Indigenous nations were of benefit to explorers and settlers until their usefulness was dwarfed by valuable resources the land and waterways held. Once the scales tipped in favour of commodities, Indigenous lives became expendable.