Indigenous Reconciliation and Municipalities: Some Calls to Action

January 12, 2016

Totem pole in Beacon Hill Park, Victoria, future home to a traditional longhouse. Photo: waferboard, Flickr
Totem pole in Beacon Hill Park, Victoria, future home to a traditional longhouse. Photo: waferboard, Flickr

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) released its final report in December 2015 - a massive 3700-page tome resulting from the six-year investigation by the TRC into the residential school system for Indigenous youth and the legacy of the system. Prior to the report, in June 2015, the TRC released 94 reconciliation recommendations, or calls-to-action (CTA), to address that legacy.

The 94 CTAs are recommendations that all levels of government, churches, public institutions and non-Aboriginal Canadians can undertake on the path to reconciliation. In this article we have responded to a frequently asked question “what can municipalities do for reconciliation” and have assembled the CTAs that apply to municipalities and local governments and listed them below with their CTA number:

  1. We call on all levels of government, in collaboration with Aboriginal people, to create adequately funded and accessible Aboriginal-specific victim programs and services with appropriate evaluation mechanisms.
  1. We call upon federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to fully adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation.
  1. We call upon federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to provide education to public servants on the history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal–Crown relations. This will require skills based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.
  • Note: Our training meets many of these objectives and much of our most recent training has been provided to local governments.
  1. We call upon all levels of government that provide public funds to denominational schools to require such schools to provide an education on comparative religious studies, which must include a segment on Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Aboriginal spiritual beliefs and practices developed in collaboration with Aboriginal Elders.
  1. We call upon the federal government to work with governments, churches, Aboriginal communities, former residential school students, and current landowners to develop and implement strategies and procedures for the ongoing identification, documentation, maintenance, commemoration, and protection of residential school cemeteries or other sites at which residential school children were buried. This is to include the provision of appropriate memorial ceremonies and commemorative markers to honour the deceased children.

76. We call upon the parties engaged in the work of documenting, maintaining, commemorating, and protecting residential school cemeteries to adopt strategies in accordance with the following principles:

i. The Aboriginal community most affected shall lead the development of such strategies.

ii. Information shall be sought from residential school Survivors and other Knowledge Keepers in the development of such strategies.

iii. Aboriginal protocols shall be respected before any potentially invasive technical inspection and investigation of a cemetery site.

  1. We call upon provincial, territorial, municipal, and community archives to work collaboratively with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation to identify and collect copies of all records relevant to the history and legacy of the residential school system, and to provide these to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.
  1. We call upon all levels of government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, sports halls of fame, and other relevant organizations, to provide public education that tells the national story of Aboriginal athletes in history.
  1. We call upon all levels of government to take action to ensure long-term Aboriginal athlete development and growth, and continued support for the North American Indigenous Games, including funding to host the games and for provincial and territorial team preparation and travel.

And here are a couple of other examples of Indigenous reconciliation and municipalities. In late 2015, Victoria, BC, moved to repatriate the top of Beacon Hill Park, a famous lookout, to the local First Nations, who will build a traditional longhouse in its place. The new longhouse will be used to teach traditional carving techniques to youth from Esquimalt and Songhees Nations. It will also be a place to share the history and stories of the Lekwungen people with the public. The Cities of Regina and Saskatoon are both considering initiatives to work with local Aboriginal organizations on renaming streets with traditional names.

On a personal note, I have really enjoyed and appreciated every opportunity to share my knowledge and information with governments, corporations, schools, healthcare departments and individuals. It’s the reason I started this business and the blog - to make the world a better place for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Thanks for reading and keep on sharing.

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