by Rachel Everett-Fry, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Municipality’s efforts toward Truth and Reconciliation were reviewed at the Council Meeting on September 21. Strategic Initiative Coordinator, Hillary Geneau, delivered a report to Council. In June of this year, Council directed staff to begin working on a land acknowledgment, and to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission [TRC] Calls to Action from 2015. On August 11, Council followed in the steps of the Federal government and recognized September 30 as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
In her report, Ms.Geneau stated: “The Municipality is committed to a meaningful reconciliation process. To achieve this, the planned process will engage local Indigenous people to work alongside Council and Staff in identifying strategies which respond both to the TRC Calls to Action, as well as to interests and needs of Indigenous people who live and work in North Grenville”.
One of the first steps in this process has been Indigenous Awareness Training for all Staff and Council, which will be integrated as part of the general training process for staff in the future. Hillary also stated that the Municipality will be “completing a diversity and inclusion plan in the near future.” Developing a land acknowledgment, and a full response to the eight TRC Calls to Action that are applicable to municipalities, remains a work in progress. Hillary reported that the First Peoples Group has been hired to assist in this process.
Councillor John Barclay noted that #57 of the Calls to Action in the TRC calls for education and training of public servants on Indigenous history, law, and anti-racism. He said, “We’re well on our way to providing education to staff and council.”
Councillor Kristin Strackerjan stated: “I know that this is not a simple topic to address, and that we want to make sure that it’s done meaningfully. I appreciate that it has gone far beyond a land acknowledgment, and that there is meaningful action taking place in order to come to a place where we’re making informed and engaged decisions on this, and not simply forging ahead with what we think is best at this stage from a Municipal perspective”.
At the September 21 meeting, Council also discussed how to mark September 30. Deputy Mayor McManaman and Councillor Barclay both suggested that giving Council and Municipal employees the day off before a fulsome discussion about the purpose and importance of the day was, in the words of Councillor Barclay, “putting the cart before the horse.”
Councillor Strackerjan raised a motion “to offer the opportunity for any individuals within the municipality who identify as Indigenous, or have a personal connection to that day, to be afforded the opportunity to take the day off as a holiday.” As such, recognizing the day will remain up to the discretion of staff. All staff, however, will be encouraged to attend the “Every Child Matters” flag raising ceremony on the 30th, and will be afforded 2 hours off to do so.
The flag raising ceremony will be a public event. The public, especially children and youth, are encouraged to attend and mark the importance of the day. The Municipality also encourages those with the day off to devote some time to education. Resources compiled by the Municipality can be found at: https://www.northgrenville.ca/live/community-involvement/truth-and-reconciliation#truth-and-reconciliation.