Intersectionality Matters: Annual Indigenous Awareness Week marks Forces-wide inclusion

Lieutenant-General Jean-Marc Lanthier, Commander of the Canadian Army and Defence Champion for Indigenous Peoples, passes the Department of National Defence/Canadian Armed Forces Eagle Staff to Third Vice Chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, Dutch Lerat during the Bold Eagle Graduation Parade 2018 at Canadian Forces Base/Area Support Unit Wainwright on August 16, 2018. Photo: Corporal Jay Ekin, Wainwright Imaging. ©2018 DND/MDN Canada. ~ Le lieutenant-général Jean-Marc Lanthier, commandant de l’Armée canadienne et champion de la défense pour les peuples autochtones, remet le bâton à exploits du ministère de la Défense nationale/Forces armées canadiennes au troisième vice-chef de la Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, Dutch Lerat, lors de la cérémonie de remise des diplômes du programme Bold Eagle en 2018, à la Base des Forces canadiennes/à l’Unité de soutien de secteur Wainwright le 16 août 2018. Photo : Caporal Jay Ekin, Service d’imagerie de Wainwright. ©2018 DND/MDN Canada

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By Shannon Morrow, Army Public Affairs

Ottawa, Ontario — Indigenous Awareness Week (IAW) highlights voices from Indigenous people in our lives and in our Forces.

The 2019 IAW, which is observed by all Defence Team members, runs from May 21 to 24.

It was established by the Canadian government in 1992 to honor the significant contributions of Indigenous people in the service of Canada – including First Nations, Inuit and Métis – and to engage with Canadians nation-wide in celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ rich culture and history.

Commemorative and educational events will take place across Canada during the week. At the National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa on May 22 and 23, events will be presented by Lieutenant-General Jean-Marc Lanthier, Commander of the Canadian Army and Defence Champion for Indigenous Peoples.

Master Warrant Officer Grant Greyeyes, Indigenous Advisor to the Commander of the Canadian Army, commented that, “Commemorative events like this are very important. The long history of Indigenous Peoples in Canada is all around us. We cannot forget what has happened and we cannot ignore the daily opportunities we have to learn and grow.”
Lieutenant-Commander Jeffrey Gauger, the Canadian Army Employment Equity Officer, agrees.
“Indigenous Awareness Week lets everyone, from every background, look at themselves and ask tough questions. Why do I think the way I do? How can I support those who need my support? Am I making the CAF better with the way I think? Really taking the time to ask questions and learn can change lives – in and out of the Canadian Armed Forces,” LCdr Gauger said.
IAW’s theme for 2019 is, “We are all treaty people / honouring all my relations because intersectionality matters.”
This idea invites us to be mindful of and celebrate all facets of our identities and heritage, both as individuals and as a community, because many aspects often co-exist and intersect.
Understanding this intersectionality is essential for breaking down misinformation and misunderstanding that can result in barriers and biases.

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“Intersectionality is the idea of putting people into categories. Maybe one category is race, another is gender, and another could be disability. One person can be in many categories at once,” LCdr Gauger explained.
MWO Greyeyes added, “Intersectionality looks at all the categories people can be put into that sometimes makes them easier to discriminate against,” he said. “This concept reminds us that all of the categories that make you who you are, matter. Who you are, matters. What you put out in the world, matters. How you treat others, matters.”
The Canadian Armed Forces supports a number of initiatives designed to help the military population reflect the diversity of Canada’s population. These initiatives include Indigenous youth development programs and outreach efforts in communities across Canada. Please see Related Links for more details.
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