Indigenous land acknowledgments now official Lake of Bays council process

·2 min read

Land acknowledgments will now be an official part of council proceedings in Lake of Bays.

The township voted unanimously to read a verbal statement at the start of meetings taking place in council chambers on land “traditionally occupied by Indigenous peoples.”

The acknowledgement goes on in part to say, “Their legacy and respectful stewardship for this land continues to shape Lake of Bays today and we want to show our respect.”

The statement will also be read at events outside municipal hall where council or senior staff are invited to speak.

Through a District-led committee that met on Wahta Mohawk Territory, it was determined the acknowledgement be left open to augmentation.

“It is a living document,” Mayor Terry Glover said, recognizing the learning process and working relationship between the municipality and First Nations is ongoing.

This includes specifically naming the nations on which Muskoka, as it is known, was built. Ultimately, Glover stressed the importance of getting something on the books that was created collectively, with respect and with sincerity.

“There’s lots of time to get this right,” he said. “It’s important we understand each other’s viewpoints.”

Some of the calls to action outlined in the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation report fall under education. Through consultation and sharing with local First Nations leaders, Glover said he learned a great deal about Indigenous history in Canada, information he did not receive through the Ontario school system.

“How can I be my age and not know about this stuff?” he said.

Land acknowledgments have been commonplace in other provinces for decades at government and community events.

Ontario is a very conservative place, Glover noted — one that is “very financially driven” and as a result, “this kind of thing is put on the back burner,” he said,

The mayor acknowledged the action is a delayed response comparatively. Glover pointed to the Black Lives Matter and racial justice movements happening worldwide as proof that there is work to do and part of it is incumbent on municipal leadership.

“We have this problem here, too, and we’re not recognizing our diversity the way we should,” he said.

At the time of this writing, Kristyn Anthony was a Local Journalism Initiative reporter, funded by the Government of Canada.

Kristyn Anthony, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com