Residential Schools, Survivors, Colonialism, Genocide and Discrimination. For Culturally Safe and Trauma-Informed support, available 24 hours a day, please visit: First Nations Health Authority –Mental Health and Wellness
As we approach September 30, Orange Shirt Day and National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, VCF is reflecting on its commitments to Truth and Reconciliation and the responsibility and accountability we hold as a community foundation to ensure we are doing everything we can to create the social, economic, and environmental conditions to collectively thrive.
This September 30 is the ten-year anniversary of Orange Shirt Day, and the third time our country has marked National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. As a community foundation, VCF is asking many questions that our peers in philanthropy are also asking, namely: how do we put Reconciliation into action?
The truth is that like many charitable organizations, VCF has practiced settler philanthropy for far too long, where wealth is created through extractive practices on stolen land and redistributed through philanthropy to other settler-serving causes. Instead of mobilizing funding towards systemically excluded communities and empowering those communities through autonomy and self-determination, settler philanthropy is rooted in colonial and white-dominant cultural practices. These practices have centered the needs of donors, withheld power over decision-making, put up barriers to access through cumbersome application and report-back processes, and placed limitations on the use of funds.
Philanthropy is one of many institutions that is confronting this legacy and recognizing the need to reimagine this work. VCF is only beginning this journey, but as September 30 nears, we thought it fitting to share more about the path we are walking and the Indigenous-led organizations who are helping us to reorient our work towards equity and justice.
Learning to Unlearn
Both Orange Shirt Day and National Day for Truth and Reconciliation call upon settlers (non-Indigenous Canadians) to learn about the devastating and ongoing impacts of colonization and Residential Schools. Understanding the truth of this history is an important first step in Reconciliation, helping to build understanding of the experiences of Indigenous peoples and contextualizing the current concerns of Indigenous communities.
As a direct result of physical and cultural genocide and Residential Schools, many Indigenous peoples experience intergenerational trauma, disproportionately high levels of unemployment, and food and housing insecurity. Systemic inequities persist, having originated within the colonial systems and white-dominant cultural practices that Canada was built upon – including in philanthropy.
Indigenous organizations across Turtle Island (colonially known as Canada) are resilient, preserving culture, language, and ceremonies, asserting constitutionally protected rights and title, providing trauma and support services to Residential School Survivors, creating opportunities for land-based healing, collective care and well-being, and celebrating Indigenous sport and identity. Indigenous-led organizations are also leading work to solve the most pressing problems of our generation, including protecting the environment through guardian programs and offering wisdom, knowledge, guidance, and alternative ways of relational living through practices like “Two-Eyed Seeing”, and by being leaders in the social justice space. This work is critical to undoing the harms of colonialism and capitalism, which threaten our very existence, and which impact marginalized communities the most.
And yet, very little charitable giving is directed to Indigenous-led or benefitting groups. While Indigenous peoples make up about 4.9% of the population, Indigenous organizations received just over one half of one percent of gifted funds, or approximately $1 for every $138, in 2018. Sharon Redsky, Wanda Brascoupe, Mark Blumberg and Jessie Lang, authors of "Canadian Charities Giving to Indigenous Charities and Qualified Donees", have observed “a growing awareness of how wealth has been accumulated in Canada through the dispossession of land, agriculture production, and the extraction of natural resources.” This underfunding of Indigenous-led organizations makes clear that “much more needs to be done to foster equity and reconciliation”.
In 2015, VCF signed The Circle on Philanthropy’s Declaration of Action for the Philanthropic Community. While we recognized the importance and significance of signing this declaration in 2015, over the past 8 years there has been much to learn and unlearn – as individuals, and as an organization – in order to undertake our work from a place of authenticity. This work is ongoing, and we would like to express our deep gratitude to The Circle on Philanthropy and their faculty and staff for their steadfast vision and commitment to leading the philanthropic sector in a reorientation of settler philanthropy towards equity and justice.
We would also like to express gratitude to our fellow past and current participants of Partners in Reciprocity for sharing their wisdom, successes, and learnings, and for having uncomfortable conversations through which we have benefited and learned so much. And again, to The Circle, for bringing us together in the Summer of 2023 for the All My Relations Gathering, where we connected around Reciprocity, Accountability, Curiosity, and Abundance. Through this sharing, we feel more prepared to reorient our own practices and approaches towards equity and justice.
Most recently, we have begun to truly reimagine what philanthropy will look like within our own organization. We are finalizing a strategic plan where more equitable redistribution of wealth and resources is a key pillar of our strategy. We will be prioritizing funding for Indigenous, Black, DTES, and equity-deserving communities through community-led philanthropy, rooted in the values, principles, and approaches of trust-based philanthropy and community-centric fundraising. We look forward to sharing more about our commitments and learning in the months ahead. We are excited and nervous about this work, knowing what is at stake, and hoping to make long-term shifts while approaching it with a good mind and a good heart.
One Day’s Pay
Edgar Villanueva, author of Decolonizing Wealth and founder of the Decolonizing Wealth Project, encourages philanthropic organizations to think about giving as an opportunity to redistribute wealth in a way that is reparative. He says, “if we could use money in a different way, towards a healing, reparative purpose, then money actually can be sacred, something that could be used as medicine.” It is this approach that has shaped how we want to show up this September 30.
A few months ago, we were humbled to be invited by the organizers of the One Day’s Pay campaign to help grow awareness and support for Indigenous-led organizations leading up to Orange Shirt Day and National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The One Day’s Pay campaign is multi-faceted, but the commitment that is its namesake is an ask of settlers who are able to donate the pay they receive on National Day for Truth and Reconciliation – a federal statutory holiday.
In the next few days, you will be invited to join us in participating in the One Day’s Pay campaign. We hope those of you who are able will give generously and consider engaging with one of the resources we share or attending an event or ceremony on September 30.
In the meantime, we thank you for taking the time to learn more about our Truth and Reconciliation journey and look forward to finding ways to work together to reimagine philanthropy.
Genesa Greening, CEO
On behalf of the Vancity Community Foundation
Vancity Community Foundation operates on the lands of many Indigenous Nations. We bring our hearts and minds together and acknowledge the territories of these nations. Our office, 312 Main, is located on the unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) and səl̓ílwətaʔ /Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.