Truth and Reconciliation

At last evening’s Council meeting, Niagara Regional Council passed three motions that take steps (small, though they may be) toward Truth and Reconciliation with our Indigenous friends, neighbours, relatives, and communities.

I am pleased that this Council passed the following three items/motions unanimously (the full text of which are below the video):

Corporate Services Committee Minute Item No. 5.5
CSC-C 27-2021 – Motion Respecting National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

CL-C 71-2021
Niagara Region’s Corporate Day for Learning and Reflection on September 30, 2021

CAO 15-2021
Updated Land Acknowledgement Statements

You can watch the video of the meeting here. The discussion (from my changes to the order of the agenda and the Chair’s remarks to the passing of the items/motions) about the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and the two items related to it begins at: 00:11:45 and ends at 00:38:45.

For those interested, the text of the items/motions are as follows:

Corporate Services Committee Minute Item No. 5.5
CSC-C 27-2021 – Motion Respecting National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
Moved by me
Seconded by Councillor Redekop

WHEREAS the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) released its final report on June 2, 2015, which included 94 Calls to Action to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation;

WHEREAS the recent discoveries of remains and unmarked graves across Canada have led to increased calls for all levels of government to address the recommendations in the TRC’s Calls to Action;

WHEREAS all Canadians and all orders of government have a role to play in reconciliation;

WHEREAS Recommendation #80 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called upon the federal government, in collaboration with Indigenous peoples, to establish, as a statutory holiday, a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process; and

WHEREAS the Federal Government has announced September 30th, 2021, as the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (National Orange Shirt Day) and a statutory holiday;

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED:

  1. That the Council of the Regional Municipality of Niagara does hereby COMMIT to recognizing September 30th, 2021, as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (National Orange Shirt Day) by sharing the stories of residential school survivors, their families, and communities.

The remarks I made about the motion above (at last week’s Corporate Services Committee meeting) were roughly as follows:

On Monday, August 23 we received this resolution from the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, and I think it is important that we pass this to acknowledge and support the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, which has been declared as September 30, 2021, and is now a federal statutory holiday to give time and space to reflect on the history and legacy of residential schools.

Recent uncoverings of remains and unmarked graves across Canada have led to increased calls for all orders of government to immediately address the recommendations in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action. We all have a role to play in reconciliation. Whilst most of the Calls to Action fall within the mandates of federal, provincial, and territorial orders of government, there are several that fall within the purview of municipal governments. Where it doesn’t fall within our own mandate, we can always be clear in our support for other orders of government to take action on reconciliation.

The 94 Calls to Action cover a wide range of government responsibilities, including child welfare, education, language and culture, health, justice, commemoration, museums and archives, training for public servants, and a few specific initiatives related to reconciliation.

It’s important that we pass this resolution, so that our communications staff has time to reach out to Indigenous community leaders, if that’s what they wish to do, to work on what “sharing stories of residential school survivors, their families, and communities” looks like for when we mark the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30.


CL-C 71-2021
Niagara Region’s Corporate Day for Learning and Reflection on September 30, 2021

As part of our commitment to truth and reconciliation, Niagara Region will honour the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30, 2021 by establishing a Corporate Day for Reflection and Learning.

With the recent passage of Bill C-5, Parliament has set this date as an annual statutory holiday for federally-regulated employees to acknowledge the history of the Indian Residential School system and to honour the children taken, their families, and their communities. The federal government created this federal statutory holiday in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Call to Action number 80 of 94 (https://www.rcaanccirnac.gc.ca/eng/1450124405592/1529106060525)

As part of Niagara Region’s commitment to advancing education and training for all staff on the history of Indigenous people living in Niagara – including the legacies of the Indian Residential School system – a Corporate Day of Reflection and Learning will provide staff with opportunities to listen, learn and reflect through Indigenous film screenings, facilitated discussions and streaming of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation events.

We are pleased to extend the invitation to Regional Council to participate in the September 30 Schedule of Events (Appendix A). An email invitation with the description of events and registration links will be circulated on Monday, September 27, 2021 to Regional Council.

New mandatory training for all staff on the history of Indigenous People in Niagara featuring the Indigenous Perspectives Docuseries developed by the Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre will form part of our staff course curriculum. This commitment builds off the recommendations found within recent local Indigenous engagement (https://www.niagararegion.ca/health/equity/indigenous-engagement.aspx) reports, and aims to advance reconciliation and build meaningful relationships with Indigenous People and nations.

In addition to the Corporate Day of Reflection and Learning on September 30, 2021, the Region will recognize the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation Day by:

  • Sharing the importance of the day on our social media channels, such as amplifying the 94 calls to action.
  • Encouraging staff and residents to consider supporting local Indigenous organizations, such as the Woodland Cultural Centre’s Save the Evidence campaign (https://woodlandculturalcentre.ca/the-campaign/), which seeks to restore the former Mohawk Institute Residential School and develop the building into an Interpreted Historic Site and Educational Resource. Links to other Indigenous organizations can be found on the Region’s webpage (https://www.niagararegion.ca/health/equity/indigenous-engagement.aspx).
  • Encouraging staff and residents to wear an orange shirt to show their support for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation Day on September 30.

Working in partnership with the Niagara Indigenous Community Executives (N.I.C.E.), additional activities are planned in the coming months. These actions are the start of a response to commitments relating to Niagara’s Community Safety and Well-Being Plan (https://www.niagararegion.ca/projects/community-safety-well-being/pdf/community-safety-well-being-plan.pdf) and recommendations in the Creating Our Way Forward: Recommendations for Improving Niagara Region Public Health and Emergency Services’ Indigenous Engagement report (https://www.niagararegion.ca/health/equity/pdf/indigenous-engagement-report.pdf).

  • On October 14, the Region’s Corporate Leadership Team will meet with senior-level urban Indigenous leaders to establish relationships and examine opportunities to collaborate, address racism and discrimination across Niagara, and improve service delivery for Indigenous people in Niagara
  • In the coming months, all municipal elected officials in the region will be invited to attend a workshop on the history of Indigenous peoples living in Niagara and present-day legacies of colonialism
  • Finally, early next year a special Regional Council meeting is proposed to consider options for action in response to the recommendations found in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report

My remarks about the item above were roughly as follows:

I don’t know if this is something that was already in the works or if it’s come to be because someone noted my extra emphasis on “training for public servants” when I was speaking – at last week’s Corporate Services Committee meeting – to the motion to recognize the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, but – either way – I’m thrilled that Niagara Region is taking this step.

For those unfamiliar with the 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the calls to action cover a wide range of government responsibilities, including child welfare, education, language and culture, health, justice, commemoration, museums and archives, training for public servants, and a few specific initiatives related to reconciliation.

This initiative is Call to Action #57, which reads: “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.”

I’m also very happy to read in this memo that there will be a Special Council meeting early next year to consider options for action in response to the recommendations found in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report. For those who haven’t read the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, there are five Calls to Action (numbers 43, 47, 57, 75, and 77) that make specific requests of municipal governments, and there are many other Calls to Action in which we can play some sort of role, whether that be through our role here on Regional Council or as friends, neighbours, and relatives of Indigenous people in various communities across Niagara.


CAO 15-2021
Updated Land Acknowledgement Statements
Moved by me
Seconded by Councillor Huson

1.  That the short, long and documents versions of Land Acknowledgement Statements outlined in Report CAO 15-2021 BE APPROVED and that the short version be recited at Council and Committee meetings on a go forward basis;

2.  That the Region’s Land Acknowledgement Statements BE REVIEWED and updated as new understandings of treaties and agreements in the Niagara Region evolve; and

3.  That this report BE SHARED by the Regional Clerk with Local Area Municipalities, the NPCA, and NRPS.


I am grateful to Councillors Redekop, Insinna, and Huson for seconding these important motions. I am also grateful to staff for doing the heavy lifting on advancing these initiatives and consulting with Indigenous leaders to try to ensure we do this work as appropriately and effectively as possible.

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