North Huron adopts Indigenous land acknowledgment policy

·3 min read

NORTH HURON – Councillors voted 5-2 to adopt a policy to include an Indigenous land acknowledgement policy, beginning at the next regular council meeting.

Councillors debated the reasoning behind adopting the bylaw after a motion was put forward to continue the previous council’s work on reconciliation.

While most councillors voiced their opinions in favour of the motion, Councillor Chris Palmer loudly objected.

"We won't support paying homage to them," Palmer said, adding, "we don't pay homage to our own creator, God, in prayer, nor to the Queen, why would we do it for them?"

Deputy Reeve Trevor Seip tried to explain to Palmer that the reason for the motion was in the spirit of reconciliation with Indigenous people, “which is something I fully support,” he added.

Coun. Kevin Falconer voiced his support for the idea and asked his fellow councillors what they would do if this were voted down, saying, "will we change the name of Wawanosh then, since it's named after Chief Wawanosh?"

“We wouldn’t be here, enjoying what we do, if it wasn’t for the Indigenous people who used to live here,” he said.

North Huron Clerk Carson Lamb created the report presented to council on May 17.

“In 2015, the publication of The Truth and Reconciliation Commission report sparked the creation of land or territorial acknowledgments for several municipalities and organizations across Canada.”

Lamb added, “these acknowledgement statements recognize and showcase respect for Indigenous peoples, both in the past and present, and the contributions that they have made to our communities and nation.”

The previous council began the process in 2018, but due to the municipal election and barriers in the research, consultation, and development process at that time, "the development of a statement reached a standstill."

Lamb went on to say the adoption of a land acknowledgment showcases the township's respect, recognition, and appreciation of Indigenous peoples, practices, and ways of knowing.

“When a land acknowledgement statement is being given, it is an opportunity for North Huron council and staff to reflect, be present and pause to consider the impact and change in their work,” states Lamb’s report.

After the meeting, Reeve Bernie Bailey spoke with Wingham Advance Times, saying he was genuinely surprised at the two nay votes.

Palmer and Coun. Paul Heffer both voted no to the land acknowledgement.

Bailey hopes that other councils and businesses will follow North Huron’s lead and adopt a similar policy.

Staff drafted four statements and worked with the Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) to get the wording correct.

While all four options were deemed sufficient and appropriate by SON, they identified two of the statements as being preferred:

- "We [I] would like to begin by acknowledging that the land on which we gather is the traditional territory of the Anishinabewaki, Odawa, and Mississauga Peoples."

- "The Township of North Huron would like to begin by acknowledging that we are situated on Treaty 29 and Treaty 45 ½ territory, and the land on which we gather is the traditional territory of the Anishinabewaki, Odawa, and Mississauga Peoples. For this, we are grateful to have the opportunity to work on this land.

A policy has been developed to guide the use of the two approved statements. Both of the approved statements are noted in the policy.

As outlined in the policy, North Huron staff and council are encouraged to use the two Indigenous land acknowledgement statements in the following circumstances:

Council and committee meetings

- all regular and special council meetings;

- all committee and board meetings associated with the Township of North Huron - Corporate Documents; and

- including but not limited to the North Huron Strategic Plan, Official Plan or Official Plan Amendments, and others as directed by the Chief Administrative Officer in consultation with the Reeve and the Clerk.

North Huron special events

- including but not limited to the opening of new buildings/facilities, dedications ceremonies related to North Huron assets, etc; and

- other special events as directed by the Reeve in consultation with the Chief Administrative Officer and the Clerk.

Cory Bilyea, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wingham Advance Times