Almost all Edmonton's mayoral candidates come up short on Indigenous issues, advocate says

·2 min read
Wilton Littlechild, Grand Chief of Treaty No. 6, and Mayor Don Iveson prepare to raise the Treaty 6 flag outside city hall on Treaty No. 6 Recognition Day in 2019. (Nathan Gross/CBC - image credit)
Wilton Littlechild, Grand Chief of Treaty No. 6, and Mayor Don Iveson prepare to raise the Treaty 6 flag outside city hall on Treaty No. 6 Recognition Day in 2019. (Nathan Gross/CBC - image credit)
CBC
CBC

Despite Edmonton having a significant Indigenous population, advocates say mayoral platforms do not reflect their issues or any steps toward reconciliation.

Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse, executive director of the Yellowhead Indigenous Education Foundation, told CBC's Edmonton AM that Indigenous issues are part of Edmonton's foundation and should be front-and-centre this election.

Homelessness, climate change and reconciliation are all issues that could be looked at through an Indigenous lens, but Stonehouse said she sees little evidence that mayoral candidates are doing so.

"To not have any other candidate speak to that and how the city is going to work in relation to Indigenous people is quite terrifying and a step back," she said on Thursday.

"So I'm thoroughly disappointed with the candidates' platform."

According to the 2016 Statistics Canada report, the Edmonton region is home to 61,500 First Nations and more than 39,000 Métis.

Amarjeet Sohi is the only candidate who addressed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, while candidate Michael Oshry has a section dedicated to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on his platform statement.

"They are both really important documents," she said.

The UN declaration, known as UNDRIP, is a non-binding global framework for efforts to advance the rights of Indigenous peoples. The TRC's calls to action, she said, is a path forward from the intergenerational trauma due to residential schools.

Ryan Parker/Ryan Parker Photography
Ryan Parker/Ryan Parker Photography

Sohi's platform addresses both reconciliation and rights relations.

He has promised to create a city Reconciliation Council with Indigenous leaders and governments, support the search for unmarked graves at residential schools, and create a committee to address the issue of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls. He has also pledged to accept and incorporate the UNDRIP framework.

Stonehouse has looked at all the candidates' websites and said all but one — that of candidate Mike Nickel — include a formal acknowledgment of being on traditional lands of First Nations and Métis people.

But for most, the sentiment stops there, she said.

"They fail to mention Indigenous people anywhere else," she said.

Stonehouse also said that whoever will be replacing current Mayor Don Iveson will have "huge moccasins to fill."

She said significant progress was made under Iveson's leadership.

For example, Enoch Cree Nation had a boil water advisory for 25 years, she said. In 2019, Edmonton extended the city's waterline to the community, providing clean drinking water to 500 homes.

"It's things like that that we've already done that we need to continue building on," she said.

CBC Edmonton will bring you live municipal election results on CBC Radio One at 93.9 FM and CBC Listen. Join Mark Connolly, Nancy Carlson and Tahirih Foroozan for a special broadcast starting at 8 p.m.

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