Since time immemorial, the land on which HALCO staff and board members live and work has been the home and traditional territory of Indigenous Peoples. Our work is carried out across the many traditional territories of this land now known as Ontario, which continues to be home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit, and Métis relatives including those of the Mississaugas of the Credit, Haudenosaunee and Huron-Wendat.
HALCO works for health and justice; yet HALCO staff and board members acknowledge our privilege and our role in the colonization of and systemic racism against Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous Peoples in Ontario are 1.7 times more likely to be living with HIV than non-Indigenous people. While a number of factors contribute to this community prevalence of HIV, the key determinant remains colonization and its ongoing social and health impacts. We must do our part to address ongoing injustices as well as the resulting health inequities faced by Indigenous Peoples and that contribute to the impact of the HIV epidemic in Indigenous communities.
We will continue to strive to connect our work with efforts to realize the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
We will continue to seek to work with Indigenous communities to, among other things, ensure that Indigenous people with HIV in Ontario have access to the best available legal services, care, treatment and support. In addition to engaging in internal organizational work, HALCO will continue to engage in legal work in response to issues that disproportionately impact Indigenous people in Ontario. We are involved in ongoing litigation against the City of Toronto in relation to their approach to the shelter system during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are also involved in ongoing litigation against the Federal government in relation to their response to federal prisons during the pandemic. In addition, we also recently intervened in litigation to strike down mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug offences, as well as in an inquest in relation to overdose poisoning deaths in an Ontario jail.
Since 2017, HALCO has marked Indigenous Peoples Day (our office is closed on June 22, 2020, as June 21, 2020 falls on a Sunday). This year, the HALCO board will be working on a Reconciliation Action Plan. In addition, HALCO is in the midst of finalizing its Anti-Oppression/Anti-Racism Action Plan, which includes features such as (i) modifying recruitment practices to improve staff representation from HIV-affected communities, with a particular focus on Indigenous communities; (ii) developing more meaningful mechanisms to gather feedback from the people and organizations we work with, also with a significant focus on Indigenous communities; and (iii) reviewing clinic policies with an anti-oppression/anti-racism and decolonizing lens.
We have plenty to learn and plenty to do. We believe that it is up to us, as a partner and ally, to acknowledge and act. We are committed to doing so, working in collaboration with and following the lead of Indigenous colleagues and organizations.