Montreal reveals official strategy aimed at reconciliation with Indigenous peoples

·3 min read

The City of Montreal has unveiled its plan aimed at fostering reconciliation with Indigenous peoples over the next five years.

The strategy is the result of consultations with 30 organizations that work with Indigenous people, held over the last two years by Marie-Ève Bordeleau, Montreal's commissioner of Indigenous affairs.

"Indigenous people know the effect of assimilation, colonization, racism and systemic discrimination because we live with the consequences every day. This strategy is, in my opinion, a step toward healing, toward reconciliation," Bordeleau said.

The plan includes commitments to:

  • Develop a nation-to-nation relationship by, for example, increasing the participation of Indigenous people in city advisory boards.

  • Highlight the memory, history and heritage of Indigenous peoples in public spaces outdoors and indoors, such as at libraries.

  • Support the urban Indigenous community by creating social housing and gathering spaces adapted to specific cultural needs.

  • Improve Indigenous people's sense of security by supporting projects that provide free, safe spaces for Indigenous women, increasing services for homeless people, creating a front-line team to respond to calls where police presence is not necessary and recruiting Indigenous people to work as police officers and within the municipal court.

  • Support Indigenous cultural development in urban areas by developing and promoting artistic and Indigenous cultural practices.

  • Offer employability services adapted to the specific needs of the Indigenous peoples living in Montreal, as well as other measures to support the economic development of the Indigenous community.

  • Incorporate Indigenous knowledge and practices in projects to protect the environment.

Mayor Valérie Plante said that while the city is committed to the reconciliation process, she acknowledged there's only so much a city can do when decision-making, including funding commitments, involves the provincial and federal governments.

"It is true that there's a lot of hope, there's a lot of work in this strategy, but we cannot do it alone. What I'm hoping people understand is this is not a report we're going to put on a shelf, because it's not a report. It is about orienting what needs to be done," she said.

Indigenous leaders commend plan

Ghislain Picard, the Chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, praised Plante's leadership, saying the plan does a good job addressing issues mentioned in the anti-racism plan his organization released in September.

"It's certainly a strong message, which is going along with a very clear willingness to move into action."

He said he hopes Montreal's plan serves as an example for other cities and governmental organizations.

Kahnawake Mohawk Council Chief Gina Deer listed the addition of the great tree of peace to the Montreal flag, the renaming of Amherst Street to Atateken Street, and being part of the unveiling of the city's new strategy as steps toward true reconciliation.

"We need to ensure that into the future, we will have that trust that will build over time, and then we can, through that trust, build a true relationship that will last."